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VOL. XIX. JUNE 1, 1898. No. 11.
Provoking One Another………………………..163
Poem: The Truth Shall Conquer…………………167
Must We Abandon Hope of a
The Jewish Faith in the Millennium…………….168
A Look at the Crucified One…………………..170
“A Spirit Hath not Flesh and
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PROVOKING ONE ANOTHER
“Let us consider one another, to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is: but exhorting one another; and so much the more as ye see the day drawing on.”—Heb. 10:24,25.
THE WORD “provoke” signifies to arouse or incite, or stimulate to activity. It is generally used in an evil sense, but is applicable, as in our text, to describe an incitement to good works, good thoughts, etc. The tendency of fallen human nature is toward things that are mean, selfish, grovelling, and the natural bent is to incite or provoke or encourage similarly mean and unworthy thoughts, actions and words in others, and it has become a proverb, that “Evil communications corrupt good manners.” Everyone of experience knows this general tendency of evil to beget evil, and to corrupt and to pollute whatever is nobler and purer than itself; hence we have the Scriptural pronouncement, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.” Those who neglect this counsel need not be surprised if they are continually falling into temptation, and if the influence upon their own lives results in a measure at least of ungodliness and sin, and disfellowship from those things which are noble and true and pure.
But the “new creature in Christ Jesus” is one in whom the transforming influences of the Lord’s spirit have already begun—one who has a new heart, a new will, a new disposition. With such, “old things have passed away, and all things have become new:” they have been begotten again; i.e., re-begotten—to new hopes, new wishes, new ideas of propriety. Instead of the earthly wisdom and way with its “bitter envying and strife,” which “descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish,” they have now the wisdom that is from above, and a heart (a disposition) to appreciate and pursue its counsels, which are, first purity, then peaceableness, gentleness, meekness, mercy, good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the disposition of this class, in proportion to their attainment of this heavenly wisdom and new nature, will be to “provoke” or incite or encourage one another, and all with whom they come in contact, to similar goodness of thought and word and act, in harmony with the heavenly wisdom which is guiding their own course.
This is laid down in the Scriptures as an unvarying rule: “A bitter fountain cannot send forth sweet water, and a good fountain cannot send forth brackish water.” A thistle-bush cannot bear grapes, and a grape-vine cannot bear thistles. It is the Master himself who says, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” If, therefore, we desire to prove ourselves, and to judge respecting our progress in mortifying (putting to death) the old nature, and our growth in the new nature, we will judge ourselves by this standard; answering to ourselves the question,—Is my own spirit (disposition) one which delights in sin in its various forms (not necessarily in its grosser forms of murder, theft, etc., but in its more refined forms, falsity, envy, strife, vainglory, slander, evil-speaking, evil surmises, etc.), or is my delight increasingly in righteousness,
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truth, goodness, gentleness, meekness, patience, love? If the former, we are yet, either wholly or partially, in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity, and have need to go at once to the Great Physician, and to submit ourselves to his radical treatment—the cutting off of sin, the mortifying of such fleshly desires, etc. If the latter be our condition of heart, we have cause for rejoicing, yet no cause for pride or boastfulness; for we can say no more than that we have merely done our duty, having merely learned, and that imperfectly, the lessons set before us by our great Teacher.
The Apostle is addressing the Church, the consecrated, the new creatures in Christ Jesus. This is shown in the text, for he classes himself with these, using the word “us;” it is also shown by the context. He calls the attention of the consecrated to the influence which goes out from each to each, and the consequent importance that the influence shall always be stimulating, or provocative of that which is good. No doubt the Apostle found in his day, as we find now, that many who are consecrated at heart fail to see clearly how this consecration should associate itself with and mark itself upon our every act and word. Perhaps he saw then, as we see now, that the holy influence of truth, gathered at a meeting of the Lord’s people, through their communion of heart, with each other and with the Lord, is not infrequently spoiled, dissipated entirely, by inconsiderate or unkind remarks of some of the company, upon dismissal.
Who, of experience, does not know how great a matter a little fire may kindle; how much evil may be started by the fire of the tongue; how many unkind thoughts, evil suspicions, surmises, how much envy, malice, hatred and strife, may be started by a mere insinuation? Since the Lord declares, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh,” it follows that the hearts and lips from which emanate these evil influences, are not controlled by the wisdom which cometh from above, tho they be in some measure consecrated to the Lord.
It is a great mistake, also, to suppose that because the evil thing is said in a kind and gentle manner, therefore it is a good thing, and evidence of a pure heart, that is full of love; quite to the contrary, we know that the great Adversary himself is continually presenting himself in garments of light, that he may exercise the greater influence for evil upon those who have made a covenant with the Lord. So, likewise, those who implant evil thoughts, surmises, etc., in a smooth and polished manner, and perhaps with a tear, are the most dangerous foes of peace and fellowship, and often accomplish the greater harm; because they succeed in planting roots of bitterness and thoughts of evil in hearts which would utterly resent the same evil thoughts and evil surmisings, if presented in a coarse, offensive and obtrusive manner.
We are not to be reckless of each other’s interests. In our contact with each other, whether a personal contact or a contact by mail or a contact through the columns of this Journal, we are to “consider one another.” We are to consider what would be helps, and what would be hindrances, what would be encouragements, and what would be stumbling-blocks; and we are to do all in our power to assist one another to run with patience the race for the heavenly prize. If we are truly consecrated to the Lord, we can do nothing “against the truth but [every effort must be] for the truth.” (2 Cor. 13:8.) What a burning and shining light every Christian would be, if his every act were considered and shaped for the benefit of those with whom he comes in contact! What a blessing it would be in the home! What a blessing it would be in the Church! This brotherly consideration is what the Apostle is urging upon us: “Consider one another, to provoke [incite, encourage] to love and to good works.” Avoid every word and every act, so far as possible, that might incite to hatred, envy, strife, bitterness (and bad works, corresponding to these feelings), all of which are “of the flesh and of the devil.”
The Apostle links this advice with the exhortation to forget not the assembling of ourselves together, as the Lord’s people. None of us are so strong in the new nature that we can disregard the fellowship of kindred minds. But even if we did feel sufficiently strong for ourselves, the spirit of love in us should so control that we would delight to meet with “the brethren” for their sakes, if we ourselves received no benefit therefrom. But we are more or less like coals of fire, which, if separated, will tend to cool rapidly, but which, if brought together, will tend to increase in fervency the entire mass. Our Lord has encouraged his people to seek each other’s fellowship for companionship in the study of his Word, and in prayer, pronouncing special blessings upon the meeting of his people together, even if so few as only two or three.
It is true that sometimes isolated ones, who have no fellowship in the present truth (except through the WATCH TOWER) are often amongst the most staunch and devoted and self-sacrificing of the Lord’s people; but we should not from this infer that the blessing comes from their isolation, but rather, since their separation is unavoidable on their part, we may reasonably suppose that our Lord makes up to them, in his own presence and blessing, that which they lack of fellowship with other members of the body. But if one had opportunity for assembling with others for worship of the Lord and the study of his Word, and
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neglected to avail himself of his privilege, we need not expect that for his benefit the Lord would work special miracles of grace. The Lord’s miracles may be expected only in times of emergency, to make up for natural deficiency.
Besides, we are to remember that through the WATCH TOWER and the mail the Lord has established a channel of communication amongst his people so that none need be without such fellowship and spiritual intercourse. And we call attention to the fact that the terms of our Journal are so liberal that the very poorest of the Lord’s people may avail themselves of this privilege of communion. If they refuse or neglect to use this grace which the Lord has put within their reach, at a cost of one postal card per year, it is their own fault; they are disregarding the Lord’s instruction, through the Apostle, and are neglecting the means open before them for having fellowship with others of like precious faith. If such find themselves growing cold, as a result of neglect of the Lord’s arrangements and providences, they have themselves to blame. We do not know how to make the WATCH TOWER terms more reasonable than they are. We exhort all to recognize it, not as a personal gift, but as a part of the Lord’s provision for his people, to which they are welcome as to all the features of his grace. Freely we have received, freely we will give the message of his love and mercy.
The Apostle intimates that, as “the Day” draws near, there will be the more need for the observance of this instruction respecting the fellowship and communion of the Lord’s people with each other. And experience proves this: the great Millennial Day which has already begun, chronologically, has brought with it new activities in mind and body, a greater pressure of business and rush to keep abreast of the times, and a correspondingly greater danger to the Lord’s people of being choked with the cares of this life, or with the deceitfulness of riches, or of seeking riches. We need a counteracting influence, to off-set this increasing influence of the world and its affairs upon us; and this counteracting influence is to be sought and to be found by the Lord’s people among themselves,—communing one with the other and with the Lord, and exhorting and encouraging one another to steadfastness along the lines of instruction laid down in his Word.
And not only so, but we find that the beginning of this great Millennial Day is a “day of trouble.” We find that the latter part of this day of trouble is to be upon the world, and that the Lord promised his Church that, if faithful, they shall be “accounted worthy to escape all those things coming upon the world.” But we have found also that the forepart of this day of trouble, which is the day of preparation for the world’s trouble, will be a special time of peculiar trouble and trial, testing and sifting, upon the Church; for—The judgments of this day “must begin with the house of God.” We see this sifting and shaking in progress all about us in the nominal Church, and still more intensely among those who occupy a still higher position and enlightenment through the knowledge of the present truth. “The great day of his wrath [judgment, testing, sifting, first of the Church and afterward the nations] is come, and who shall be able to stand?” We hear the Apostle’s exhortation, as he looked down prophetically to our day, saying, “Wherefore, take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in exalted positions.—Eph. 6:13,14.
It is “as we see the day drawing on” that we are to be the more diligent in assembling ourselves with those of like precious faith; the more earnest in exhorting and provoking to love and to good works, and thus to assist one another in putting on “the whole armor of God”—the graces of character, meekness, patience, gentleness, brotherly kindness, faith, truth, hope—that with these as the divine panoply or armor, protecting us from the assaults of the Adversary in this day, we may be able to stand. The clear intimation is that, unless we have on this armor, we will be unable to stand. And this armor includes more than mere head-knowledge, represented by the helmet; it includes, be it noted, the entire breastplate of righteousness, purity of heart, and it includes the shield of faith, and the sword of the spirit, and the sandals of consecration.
In the succeeding verse the Apostle mentions the possibility of wilful sin among the Lord’s people, and what it would imply—the second death (the sorer punishment than the first death, in that it would be without hope)—”everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power.”
While wilful sin has always been the same, it would not be unreasonable to infer from the Apostle’s words that the temptations and dangers of “this evil day” in which we live will specially tend to trial along this line. Let it be clearly noticed that the Apostle is not speaking of sins of ignorance nor of accidental missteps by being overtaken in a fault, whose sin is not unto death, but from which the transgressors may be restored in a spirit of meekness. He is referring directly to full, complete sin—the sin upon which the full penalty is justly and properly to be recompensed.
At first thought, many may be inclined to say,
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Well, I am in no danger of that sin, for I am sure that I would not commit sin wilfully, intentionally, designedly. But let us notice, dear friends, that there is a way in which sin may come upon us without being at the time a wilful sin, but which later might become wilful sin: for instance, any transgression committed, either in total ignorance or with only a partial acquiescence of our wills, might become a full, wilful, deliberate sin afterward, if we afterward came to a clear knowledge of the truth respecting the subject, and failed to repent of it to the Lord, and to undo so far as was in our power the wrong toward our fellow-creatures. To consent to a sin clearly and fully understood, simply because at the time of its committal we were in ignorance, and to refuse to make amends for it, and thus to endorse the sin intelligently, would appear to make of it a will-full sin.
With this view of the matter, the children of God cannot afford to sanction in their own minds even the slightest injustice or untruth towards each other, or towards any. The essence of this thought is found in our Lord’s command: “If thou comest to the altar [if we have anything to offer to the Lord, either of service or of worship or of thanks], and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee [that some one has been wronged by you, either in word or thought or act] leave there thy gift before the altar [do not think that it will be acceptable to God while in your heart or outwardly you are practicing injustice toward others]; first go and be reconciled to thy brother [make amends to him, apologies, explanations in full, of whatever wrong you have done him] and then come and offer thy gift [assured that in such an attitude of heart the Lord Almighty will be pleased to accept your gift].”
In describing these who sin wilfully, the Apostle uses very strong, figurative language, declaring that, inasmuch as they are in heart-sympathy with sin, and not in opposition to it, they are the opponents of the Son of God, who was so out of sympathy with sin in its every form that he laid down his life to redeem us from its power and curse. The Apostle declares that such wilful sinners may be esteemed as the enemies of Christ, who really trample him and his goodness and love under their feet, figuratively, disdaining his mercy and favor as well as his instruction in righteousness. He says that, inasmuch as they were once sanctified, as a result of their faith in the precious blood and its cleansing from sin, their turning now into harmony with sin would imply that they now disesteem the precious blood of Christ which sealed the New Covenant, counting it a non-sacred thing—common—and do despite to the spirit of divine favor which had held out to them freedom from the yoke of sin, and ultimately release from its penalty, death; and the attainment, as the Lord’s people, of the crown of life eternal.
While holding up before the Church the dangers of sin, and the danger of falling away from steadfastness for Christ and to the principles of his righteousness, the Apostle encourages us to continue our fight against sin and its influence in ourselves and in others, “perfecting holiness in the reverence of the Lord.” Accordingly he calls our minds back to our first love and first zeal—”the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of affliction; partly whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and affliction, and partly whilst ye became companions of them that were so used.” He would thus encourage the Lord’s people to continue the good fight—to continue to wage warfare against the world, the flesh and the devil, and the spirit of these, especially each within himself, in the battlefield of his own soul. And he urges that faith in the Lord and the rewards which he shall grant by and by, when he shall be glorified in his saints, is very necessary to our endurance of hardness as good soldiers in the fight against evil, both within and without, saying, “Cast not away, therefore, your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward”—”forsake not the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhort one another; and so much the more as ye see the day approaching.”
And this reminds us of the words of the Lord, through the prophet Malachi (3:15-17): In the time when the proud are happy, and they that work wickedness are established in power and influence, and they that tempt God seem to be blessed—”then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another [sympathizing with and encouraging one another, so much the more]: and the Lord hearkened and heard it; and a book of remembrance was written before him of them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name; and they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.” But while all should seek to provoke to love and to good works and to happy looks, we well know that the majority do the reverse. Hence, we suggest that the Lord’s peculiar people may be so controlled by his Word and its spirit that they will be incited to good works, good deeds and good looks by the most unfavorable conditions. Consider Stephen, confronted by those who afterward took his life: not only had he courage to preach to them, but his heart was so provoked to love and good works that his face shone with an angelic beauty. (Acts 6:15.) And the same grace abounding enabled him to pray for his murderers. (Acts 7:60.) Nothing could provoke such a spirit-filled saint to evil. Let us follow the example of such close followers of our Lord’s footsteps.
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THE TRUTH SHALL CONQUER
“An arrowy shaft of lightning flame,
Forth from unlettered lips it came;
Winds bore it, and the songs of birds;
It clove its way in burning words,
And, on a holy mission sent,
Through languages and lands it went.
“Some heard it, but they did not heed,
Some welcomed and performed its deed,
Some fought it and were stricken dumb;
They knew not what a power had come,
And, struggling to eclipse the light,
Were crushed by its resistless might.
“It barbed the hero’s scorn of wrong,
The poet shaped it in his song;
It nerved the speaker on the stage,
With it the author warmed the page;
And hoary error shrank away,
Dazzled and blinded by its ray.
“O, spark from heaven, touched by thy light
The farthest hills with day are bright;
New forms of love and beauty rise,
New splendors tint the arching skies,
The ancient wrongs that vex us cease—
We hail the thousand years of peace.”
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MUST WE ABANDON HOPE OF A GOLDEN AGE?
MISS Frances E. Willard, deceased, highly esteemed for her works in the cause of temperance and morality, is accredited with an epigrammatic statement which is generally supposed to contain an essence of wisdom amounting almost to inspiration, as follows:—
“ONLY THE GOLDEN RULE CAN BRING THE GOLDEN AGE.”
Were we sure that Miss Willard was inspired, or, were we sure that in this sentence she had gathered up the spirit and essence of divine revelation on this subject, we would in either case lose all the hope we now entertain for the glorious future.
It is over eighteen centuries since our Master promulgated the Golden Rule; and his disciples and followers for all these centuries have preached it. His words have been translated into every language under heaven, and yet, at this moment, how extremely few there are of the world’s population of fifteen hundred millions who practice this rule! Nay, how few there are even of our Master’s professed followers who make any pretense at governing their actions, their words and their thoughts by this Golden Rule! Let the answer come from every quarter,—from the nations of Christendom, from the business men and manufacturers, from the mechanics and laborers, from the home circles, where selfishness mars everything, and, finally, from the Churches professedly advocating the Golden Rule. How much we see of slander, anger, malice, hatred, selfishness, meanness; how little we see of any effort to control these in the lives of professed Christians; and how little reason we have, therefore, to suppose that the rule is observed in their hearts.
And yet, if Miss Willard were a true prophetess, or if she voiced the testimony of the Bible prophets, the only hope of a Golden Age lies in man’s acceptance of this Golden Rule which has met with such slight acceptance for more than eighteen centuries. Must we abandon hope of a glorious Golden Age? Can there be no Millennium until all mankind, or a majority at least, shall have voluntarily accepted the Golden Rule, and brought their hearts and lives into conformity therewith? If so, the Millennial dawn will never come. Reason and logic can reach no other conclusion than this. Must we give up hope?
No, we will not give up hope, for we have “a more sure word of prophecy,” to which “we do well to take heed, as unto a light which shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn.” (2 Pet. 1:19.) We are still in the dark place; sin and selfishness still abound; the Golden Rule does not control; we see no evidence of a general acceptance of it: but the more sure word of prophecy foretold this very condition, foretold that the present would be a dark time, and foretold that a glorious dawn would come. We do well indeed to take heed to the prophetic testimony respecting what great light will usher in the Golden Age.
So far from telling us that the Golden Age will come by the adoption of the Golden Rule among the inhabitants of the earth, the more sure word of prophecy tells us to the contrary, that the Golden Rule will come more and more into disrepute; and that the rule of selfishness and sin will abound; and that the result thereof will be a total wreck of present institutions, in a time of trouble such as was not since there was a nation (Dan. 12:1): a time of anarchy, brought on by the neglect of the Golden Rule; a time in which “every man’s hand shall be against his neighbor; and there shall be no peace to him that goeth out nor to him that cometh in.”—Zech. 8:10. This same sure word of prophecy leaves us not to grope on in doubt and fear, but assures us that beyond
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the coming trouble Immanuel shall reign—that he will set up his Kingdom upon the ruins of the present selfish institutions and systems which will then be ground
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to powder and become “as the chaff of the summer threshing-floors.” (Dan. 2:35.) It informs us that Immanuel will establish his Kingdom by means of this time of trouble, and indeed that the trouble itself will be his judgment against sin and selfishness, against the neglect of the Golden Rule which he laid down, and that he will break in pieces and consume all these present institutions, and establish in the earth a kingdom of righteousness, whose law will be the law of Love—the Golden Rule.
In harmony with this is the testimony of the more sure word of prophecy that, “When the judgments of the Lord are abroad in the earth [producing the great time of trouble], the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.” (Isa. 26:9.) They will learn the inexpediency of sin and selfishness, and that thereafter under divine direction, under the rule of the Heavenly Kingdom (Christ and his Church, in spiritual power and glory), no other laws or rules than the Golden Rule shall be permitted; and under its glorious administration, the prophetic testimony is, “the whole earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God, as the waters cover the great deep;”—so that it shall no longer be necessary to say one to the other, “Know thou the Lord!” because all shall know him, from the least to the greatest.—Jer. 31:34; Heb. 8:11.
This is the glorious day, foretold by Moses and by the Apostle Peter, when the great Prophet, Priest and King,—the Christ,—shall rule the world in righteousness, and execute justice in the earth; when he shall lift up also the poor and the needy, and him that hath no helper, and lay justice to the line and righteousness to the plummet, and bless all the families of the earth with the knowledge of the Lord and with opportunity, if they will, to come into harmony with him and to obtain the gift of God, eternal life, through Jesus Christ, our Lord: while all who reject the grace of God and the New Covenant shall be destroyed from among the people, in the second death.—Acts 3:22,23.
Let all those who desire the truth, and who desire to have its sanctifying influence upon their hearts and lives, give the less heed to earthly prophets and wise men and women, however good they may be, and give the more earnest heed to the “more sure word of prophecy; whereunto they do well that they take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn.”
Neither logically nor Scripturally is there ground for hope of the Golden Age except in the institution of the Kingdom of Christ, for which he taught us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven.” Not only is this Kingdom the world’s hope, but it is also the Christian’s hope: he hopes to become a joint-heir with his Redeemer in that Kingdom. And, “he that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”—1 John 3:3.
Let us therefore change the statement, and tell to the whole world the “gospel of the Kingdom,” the truth, that—
ONLY THE REIGN OF CHRIST CAN BRING THE GOLDEN AGE.
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THE JEWISH FAITH IN THE MILLENNIUM
BY RABBI GOTTHEIL, OF NEW YORK CITY
“THE belief that Jesus would return to earth in the near future formed, according to Schleiermacher, the basis of the theory of final redemption with the early Christians; and Dorner considers it the first dogma laid down by the rising Church.
“Misgivings and consequent doubts sprang up only with the widening breach between Jewish and Gentile converts. As long as Christianity was viewed merely as a reformed Judaism, as the fulfilment of the Scriptures; as long as the Jewish nation retained in the eyes of the followers of Jesus its prerogatives and high vocation among the nations of the earth, no reluctance was felt to identify the great hope with the national restoration of Israel. It appeared but natural that the place where the Messiah suffered defeat should also witness his final triumph. Such a consummation would silence all doubts as to his authority forever. Israel had rejected him. Israel should be the first to receive him, repent and lead the rest of mankind to the foot of the cross, and thereby the Scripture should be fulfilled.
“But time wore on without bringing the looked-for reappearance of the Messiah. Christianity meanwhile left its native soil more and more behind, carrying the cross beyond the seas and into distant lands; while at home disaster after disaster devastated the land and drove its inhabitants in scattered fragments among the Gentiles for shelter. The preachers of the new faith chafed under what they considered an unnecessary burden—nay, a positive hindrance to the success of their missionary labors. Unfortunate people are always unwelcome; the defeated are undesirable companions of those who mean to conquer the world. In the case of the Jews, there was superadded the scorn bred by the thought that their downfall was the vengeance of the gods whom they denied and despised. To be thrown together with this wandering tribe was very undesirable to the Christians—nay, appeared as
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a stumbling-block in their way. Can it not be removed? Can the stigma not be got rid of? A new interpretation of the passages in the Bible predicting the restoration of Palestine as the beginning of the new and better order of things on earth was sought and, of course, found.
“Divorce!’ became the shibboleth of many leading spirits. ‘No Judaism!’ grew into a cry like ‘No Popery!’ in later England, and for the most part carried the day. In others, however, the first dogma of the Church held its own and gained new strength as the Christian writings were being gathered together, and the New Testament appeared as ‘sacred Scripture’ by the side of the Jewish canon. The words are all too clear and definite to be easily interpreted away. Endless controversies ensued, which are not finished to-day. Everybody knows what part the ‘second advent’ played in the history of the Church. There were times when large numbers of Christians actually prepared for the wonderful event, and if a recent statement made on good authority may be trusted one-half of the English clergy are firm believers in the primitive dogma, and are laboring to prepare the world for the impending manifestation of Christ.
“It is a great pity that the ‘No Judaism!’ cry was ever mingled with the disputes of the new faith. Had it never been heard, why, the truth must have become apparent that the breach between the old and the new covenants was not nearly as wide as it seemed to be: that mother and daughter were not fatally separated, and might pursue their own ways as friends and not as foes. The dearest hope the Israelite nourished in his bosom during all his wanderings—what was it but the coming of the Messiah, the Goel (Redeemer), the Savior of his people; the one who would rebuild
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‘the fallen Tabernacle of David’ and restore his throne to greater than its pristine glory! That was the same throne on which the Christian expected Jesus to sit, surrounded by the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel and the resuscitated saints and martyrs, who should there receive their final reward. Jew and Christian hoped that Jerusalem would rise from her ruins, change her sackcloth and ashes for robes of honor, and, instead of being despised, become the desire of all nations.
“The question who that chosen vessel of God would be, whether the one who in his own person shared the fate of Jerusalem, or one who had not yet been seen on earth—could that be of greater weight than the common belief that he would unfailingly appear? A scion of the house of David he would be, an Israelite after the flesh, a ruler of his own people. If he should reveal himself as the man of sorrow who was nailed to the cross, the Jews would be the first to do him homage. Here was a clear and firm point of contact, strong enough to keep the two faiths together until ‘the day of his coming.’ But the new faith had grown into churches—churches of various tongues and divers nationalities, split up into sects, warring with each other about subtle points of dogma and ceremonies and persecuting one another with ruthless hatred.
“Amid these ever-growing conflicts Christianity was lost. I mean Christianity as it came from the lips of its Jewish teacher. His living words had congealed into creeds and systems, which, passing through the hands of writers of greatly divergent minds shaped these words—could it be otherwise?—into likeness with themselves. Powerful organizations arose which so far overshadowed their common origin that the Jew was mentioned only for condemnation, as the hater of the cross and the enemy of the Gospel, a tool of the devil to obstruct the kingdom of Christ. Yet half of his contention was widely conceded; viz., that the work of the Messiah was not complete; that it had been only preparatory for the final redemption of the world.
“But this availed nothing, and the chasm was dug out deeper and deeper, which kept the two faiths apart—at what cost to the very purposes which were nearest the heart of Jesus we leave unsaid here. Instead of it let us refresh our hearts at the thought that after all the idea of a Millennium has not been lost to us—nay, that its kernel of truth is better understood now than ever before. For what it has failed to do in olden time, and must fail to do as long as it remains covered with dogmatic shells, it has begun to achieve in its liberated state. There is abroad now a new spirit of fraternity and community of sacred interests among the various religions; a desire for cooperation in those things good and true and helpful which are the very beginning of the Kingdom of God on earth. If the Christian thinks he must do that service in the name of his Redeemer, that need not hinder his neighbor of a different belief from grasping his hand and becoming his fellow laborer. If the Jew is seen to do Millennial work, why should the Christian keep aloof? God has made all nations not only of One flesh, but also of One heart and of One mind; planted in each the same hope, the same pity; tries them all by the same sorrows, and gathers them all at last to the same earth. As in all things, so Heaven can only help us to peace and good will if we are earnest and zealous in seeking and pursuing them.
“What is the Millennial outlook at present? For the Jew; disheartening to almost despair, sadder even at the end than it was at the beginning of the century. The paeans with which he hailed ‘the era of enlightenment’ have died away from his lips. He stands aghast at the cruel rebukes he receives everywhere. The
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age of persecution has returned for his brethren in many lands. For what sin or misdeed? I will speak frankly; he who is branded as an unbeliever had only too much faith in the professions of his Christian surroundings. He flung himself into the currents of life, as they opened for him, with the ardor of youth; but when he reaches the desired shore in larger numbers than pleased his competitors he is pushed back and all the hateful vocabulary of scorn, abuse and calumny emptied on him with new vehemence. It is impossible for the non-Jew to realize the bitterness of soul which this disenchantment awakens in the Jew. Once he could bear it all in patience, because he felt the hand of God in it and thought it his portion during the dispersion; he walked his thorny path, as one of his poets sang:—
“His eye to earth, his heart to heaven.
“Now, his manhood rises against the injustice he suffers; the free man in him writhes under the indignities heaped upon him, and he has unlearned to seek and find compensation in the synagogues or in the Talmud.
“But for all that the Jew stands at his post and defends his old flag. He will not recede a hairbreath from the ground so far gained. Firm in his oldtime tried and fireproof faith in the coming of the Millennial Messiah, he labors on; where that is made impossible by the iron hand of his oppressor, he practices the art no one has learned better than he—’to stand and wait.’ Whether that coming of the Messiah will be the first or the second, no matter, if only the will of God be done on earth as it is in heaven.
“It is not the will of man to direct his steps, says Scripture; nor in that of mankind either. Civilization, and it alone, is sought—and behold, Millennial fulfilment comes with it unsought and inevitably. The spirit cannot be restrained nor put behind prison doors; it moves where it listeth. Freedom of speech, e.g., our undisputed possession, cannot coexist with church tyranny. The open court of an untrammelled press is the best safeguard of public justice. As it is shown in France, frenzied by artificially fanned passions to blindness, the combined power of civil and military authorities cannot wholly silence the voices, growing louder every day, which demand justice, justice at all hazards.
“Electricity quickens thought as well as muscle; the telephone sharpens the mental as well as the bodily ear. Growing ease and comfort in our homes, in travel, in the sickroom, make us more sensitive for the sufferings of those who are deprived of them, and also for the aches of the soul and the stings of conscience. Organized handicraft and manual labor have increased the sum of manhood among us a million times. Despite their many drawbacks the unions are a splendid school for self-discipline and self-government. They have taken the sons of toil out of their isolation, taught them the value of social order and of subordination to established laws. States within the states support each other as the pillars do in the steel framework of our modern towers of Babel. It was the confusion of tongues that marred the plan of the first one. Our workingmen understand each other; there is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard intelligently. The bugbear of a war between capital and labor is fading more and more into air, for it would be just as wise as a war would be between the wheel of an engine and the steam that drives it. Our societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals, can they fail to make cruelties to man more and more hateful?
“With the doors of our public schools open to all comers, with our colleges and universities freeing themselves ever more from dogmatic fetters and sectarian narrowness; with free libraries, increasing every year by the thousands, reaching the most outlying districts and offering their treasures to the cottager in village or hamlet; with our Chautauquas and other active societies for the diffusion of knowledge; with our charities becoming wiser and more truly charitable as the spirit of humanity spreads, and with Toinby halls and settlements and sisterhoods and brotherhoods for personal service finding ever greater favor; with pulpits on all sides in which the religion of truth is taught as well as the truths of the religion for which they stand—thus splendidly equipped we may surely approach the gateways of the centuries with the calm composure born of the confidence that humanity has now advanced too far to be forced backward to any great distance or checked for any length of time.
“Our faces are firmly set toward the rising sun, and wherever light and love and right prevail God is present and is worshipped by all his servants in divers forms, yet One in spirit and aspiration. What if our songs are ‘Songs before Sunrise,’ and many deep shadows of uncovered wrong and unredeemed oppression cover still the earth—the watchman on the hill cries, ‘The morning cometh’ and ‘The counsel of the Lord standeth forever.'”
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A LOOK AT THE CRUCIFIED ONE
—JUNE 12.—MATT. 27:35-50.—
“Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures.”—1 Cor. 15:3.
ALTHO the Scripture narrative of our Lord’s crucifixion is told in a most simple and artless manner, and without apparent attempt at embellishment to give it tragic effect, nevertheless in its simplicity it is one of the most touching narratives of history. As no novel could present a more eventful life, so likewise none ends more tragically than did this great real drama set upon the stage by the Almighty, as an exhibition both to angels and to men of his Justice and Love combined. How strikingly depravity of fallen human nature was illustrated in those who witnessed our Lord’s many wonderful works, and then his
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unresisting sacrifice for our sins, coldly—without appreciation. Nothing could illustrate this better than the account of the division of our Lord’s garments and the lot cast to see who would get the seamless robe,
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which so beautifully represented his own personal perfection, and which had probably been a gift from one of the noble women mentioned as being amongst his friends. (Luke 8:3.) The climax was reached when, after finally dividing the spoils, his executioners unpityingly viewed his sufferings and death—”Sitting down they watched him there.”
Moreover we are compelled to concede that while the influence of the Gospel of Christ has had a large influence upon the world of mankind, producing a civilization which certainly is to be appreciated as a great advance over more rude and barbarous conditions of the past, nevertheless, we can readily discern that under the veneer of worldly politeness and civilization there is yet a great deal of the depraved disposition in the natural heart. For are there not many to-day who, after coming to a knowledge of the facts of his case—a greater and clearer knowledge, too, than that enjoyed by the Roman soldiers—after learning of the wonderful works and of the sufferings of Christ, and that these were on our behalf, instead of falling at his feet and exclaiming, “My Lord and my Redeemer,” on the contrary do just as the Roman soldiers did—”sitting down, they watch him there?” Their hearts are not moved with pity, or at least not to a sufficiency of sympathy to control their wills and conduct, and they continue to be “the enemies of the cross of Christ;”—for as he declared, “Whoever is not for me is against me.”
It was probably with irony that Pilate wrote out the inscription that was placed above our Lord’s head on the cross, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” He knew that the rulers of the Jews had delivered Jesus to death because they were envious of his influence as a teacher; and since the charge that they brought against him was “He maketh himself a king,” claiming, “We have no king but Caesar,” and since by this hypocritical course they had forced Pilate to crucify him, on the claim that it was necessary to the protection of the throne of Caesar, therefore Pilate now retaliated and used their weapon against themselves. But little did he think, of course, that this was the true title of the wonderful man Christ Jesus, whom they caused to be put to death. Another evangelist tells us that the leading Jews objected strongly, but that Pilate refused to alter the inscription.
It was a part of the ignominy which our dear Redeemer bore and a part of the “cup” which he desired that, if possible, he might be spared drinking, that he was crucified between two thieves, and as an evildoer. The Apostle says that we should consider this from the standpoint of enduring contradiction or opposition of sinners against himself, and suggests that it will make us stronger (not in fighting with carnal words or weapons, but) in enduring similar though lighter opposition and afflictions and misrepresentations.
“He suffered much for me, more than I now can know,
Of bitterest agony he drained the cup of woe.
He bore, he bore it all for me. What have I borne for thee?”
It is proper in this connection to remember that it was not the pain which our Lord endured, not the agony, which constituted our ransom-price;—it was his death. Had he died in a less violent and ignominious manner our ransom-price would have been equally well paid; but the trials, sufferings and contradictions which our Lord endured, while no part of our ransom-price, were expedient, in the Father’s judgment, as being a part of his testing. The patient endurance of these proved his loyalty to the Father and to righteousness to the fullest degree: and thus proved his worthiness of the high exaltation which the Father had prepared as his reward. It was in view, not only of his humiliation to man-nature and his death for our sins, but in view also of the cup of shame and ignominy which he drained, that it is written, “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth, and things under the earth.”—Phil. 2:9,10.
How strangely the average mind, in its fallen estate, unguided by the sound principles of judgment and the Lord’s word, can be swayed from one extreme to the other. This is illustrated by the fact that many of those who wagged their heads and reviled the Lord upon the cross, and taunted him with his declaration that he was the Son of God, and with his statement respecting the temple of his body, had evidently been amongst those who heard him during the three and a half years of his ministry. Some of them probably had seen his “many wonderful works,” and were among those of whom it is written, they “marvelled at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth;” and who said, “When Messiah cometh can he do greater works than this man doeth?” Yet when they saw the tide turned against him, and especially when the influential of their religious teachers opposed him, they seem to have been easily swayed. We feel ashamed for the weakness of our fallen race as here shown. Yet the same thing is exemplified to-day: however pure and however luminous may be the presentations of the divine truth, if the chief priests and scribes and Pharisees of Christendom denounce it, they sway the multitude: however pure and true and honorable the lives of the Lord’s servants, Satan can still suborn false witnesses, and secure honorable (?) servants to slander and reproach them. But this is what we are to expect. Did not our Master say, “It is enough for the disciple
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that he be as his Master, and the servant as his Lord: if they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?” Did he not assure us also, “When they shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake, rejoice and be exceeding glad for great is your reward in heaven”? Thus is fulfilled in us the declaration of the prophets also, “The reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.”
The reproaches of the scribes and Pharisees were evidently the most cutting of all. When deriding Jesus’ kingly office, and power, and faith in the heavenly Father, and his claimed relationship to him, they bantered him to manifest that power and to come down from the cross. O, how little they knew that it was necessary for the Son of Man to suffer these things to enter into his glory. How little they understood the divine plan, that Messiah could have no power to deliver Israel and the world from the hand of Satan and death, except he first of all should lay down his life as our ransom price. How thankful we may feel that our dear Redeemer was not controlled by passion and revenge, but by the Father’s will and word, so that he endured the abuses of his tormenters in meekness and bowed his will to the will and plan of the Heavenly Father.
And similarly how the living members of the body of Christ are misunderstood; not only by the worldly, but especially by the prominent Pharisees of to-day. Verily, “as he is so are we in this world.” As the world did not understand the Master’s sufferings and trials, and could not see the necessity for his sacrifice, but rather considered these as marks of divine disfavor, as it is written, “We did esteem him smitten and afflicted of God,” so with the Church;—the fact that God’s consecrated people have his favor in spiritual and not in temporal blessings, is misunderstood by the world. They see not that the blessing of the spiritual nature and the spiritual favors which we seek are to be obtained by sacrifice of the earthly favor. But all who are of this sacrificing class, and running the race for the prize of the high calling may, with the Apostle, rejoice in the sufferings of the present time, and count its crosses but as loss and dross that they may win Christ and be found in him—members of the body of the glorified Christ.
It was not surprising that the two criminals on either hand of our Redeemer should join with the others in reviling Christ. The only little word of sympathy, however, that he received on this occasion, so far as the record goes, came later from one of these thieves. Our readers are referred to our issue of June 1, 1896, in respect to our Lord’s promise to the penitent thief.
Our Lord’s crucifixion took place at the sixth hour, nine o’clock in the morning—appropriately as represented in the type, for this was the hour of the morning daily sacrifice, and his death occurred six hours later, at three o’clock in the afternoon which, according to the Jewish reckoning, was the ninth hour. This also was appropriately represented in the type, for the daily evening sacrifice was offered at this hour. It was fitting also that nature should veil her glories before such a scene, and that there should be darkness. We are not, however, to suppose that it was a dense darkness, but simply darkness, as stated. Nevertheless, it must have been supernaturally dark for, as it was the full of the moon, a solar eclipse even for a few moments was an impossibility.
It was now that our Lord uttered those agonizing words, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!” He had borne, with wonderful fortitude, the contradictions of sinners against himself, and Peter’s denial, and the fact that all of his disciples fled from him, and that his last hours were spent amid the jeers of his enemies; but when the moment came that the Father’s fellowship of spirit was withdrawn from him, that was more than he could bear, and it is claimed that he died of a literally broken heart, and that this was evidenced by the fact that both blood and water proceeded from the spear-wound inflicted shortly after his death.
It may be questioned by some whether or not this was a failure of our Lord’s faith merely, and not an actual withdrawal of the Father’s favor and communion.
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We hold, however, that the philosophy of the subject proves that it was the latter, and that this was a necessary part of our Lord’s suffering as the sin-bearer. The penalty of Adam’s transgression was not only death, but additionally separation or alienation from him of divine favor and communion: consequently, when our Lord Jesus took Adam’s place and suffered in his room and stead, the just for the unjust, that he might redeem us to God by his precious blood,—it was not only necessary that he should die on our behalf, but it was also necessary that he should experience the full cutting off and separation from the Father, which was a part of the penalty of Adam’s transgression. He was not alienated or separated from the Father as a sinner throughout the three and a half years in which he was laying down his life; neither did he suffer the full penalty during those three and a half years; but the moment of crisis came at the cross, and for at least a brief period he must be deprived of the Father’s fellowship, and must thus die—as a sinner, for our sins; in order that “as by a man came death, by a man also should come the resurrection of the dead.”
When we consider our dear Master’s experience,
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we do well not to judge much from the last words of the dying, respecting their own spiritual state. False theories may beget false hopes in some, and lead them to believe that they are “sweeping through the gates of the New Jerusalem,” when really they are sweeping through the gates into the great prisonhouse of death. The most extravagant dying expressions were not made, so far as the record goes, by the Lord or his inspired Apostles. Nevertheless they had a good hope, a firm hope, a Scriptural hope, a hope which gave them strength for the battle of life and to its very close to be faithful to the Lord and to the Word of his testimony: on the contrary, many of those who die with extravagant expressions of hope on their lips were less faithful to the Lord, less faithful to his Word, and less fully consecrated to his service. Let our faith, confidence and rejoicing be as was that of the Master and the Apostles, not so much in the experience and feelings of the moment as in God’s Word and its testimony,—the “more sure word of prophecy, to which we do well to take heed, as unto a light which shineth in a dark place.”
Matthew does not record the words of our Lord when “he cried again with a loud voice,” but we have them from Luke and from John. He said, “It is finished! Father into thy hands I commend my spirit.”
Many false teachers tell us that nothing was finished, and declare that no sacrifice for sins was needed, and that none was given; but the testimony of the Scriptures is explicit on this subject that without a sacrifice, “without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins.” Our Lord’s sacrifice dated from the time that he reached manhood’s estate, thirty years, when he came promptly to John at Jordan, and was baptized—thus outwardly symbolizing his full consecration of himself unto death, in doing the Father’s will. The sacrifice there begun was faithfully continued down to his last moment. When he had endured to the very last all the ignominy, all the shame, and was finally cut off from communion with the Father—this was the last, and so our Lord indicated by the words, “It is finished.” His work was finished; the redemption price was finished; the sufferings were over; he had finished the work which the Father had given him to do, so far as its shameful and ignominious features were concerned. Another part of his work remained and is yet unfinished, namely, the work of blessing all the families of the earth, bestowing upon them the gracious favor and opportunities of eternal life secured to them justly by his sacrifice for sins.
He gave up the ghost, that is the spirit. What spirit? He did not yield up his spirit body; for at this time he had no spirit body. Thirty-four years before he had laid aside spirit conditions and nature, to become partaker of a human nature, through his mother Mary—the spirit of life which belonged to him there having been transferred to human conditions. He enjoyed and exercised this spirit of life or life-power, as the animating, vivifying principle of his human body, for thirty-three and a half years; now he was surrendering it up in death—dissolution. The crucified flesh was to be his no longer, for, as the Apostle declares, he took upon him the form of a servant, for the suffering of death, and not for the keeping of that form of a servant to all eternity. The promise of the Father was that he should be glorified with himself, and even with a still higher glory than he had with the Father before the world was,—and that was a spiritual glory, and not a human glory. He left spiritual conditions when he “was made flesh and dwelt amongst us;” but he trusted in the Father that when he had finished the work given him to do he should be again received up into glory—the spirit condition. Thus he said to the disciples, “What and if the Son of Man should ascend up where he was before?”
His commitment of his spirit to the Father’s care implied therefore that he knew thoroughly just what death is—a cessation of being—yet had confidence in the Father that he would not be permitted to remain forever in death, but would be granted again, in resurrection, the spirit of life which he now laid down in harmony with the Father’s will. He knew and had foretold to his disciples that he would be raised from the dead on the third day. He recognized that his spirit of life, his vitality, his being, came from the Father, originally, and was subject to the Father’s power and care: and knowing that the Father had promised to give him being again, he here merely expresses his confidence in this promise. And his confidence was abundantly fulfilled, in that God raised him from the dead, highly exalted in nature, not only above human nature but far above angels and principalities and powers,” to the very highest plane of the spirit nature, namely, to the divine nature.
And, remarkable as it may seem, this is the very same invitation that is extended to the Church of this Gospel age, that they may have fellowship with their Master’s sufferings, and eventually have fellowship also with him in glory, and as “partakers of the divine nature” and its glory, honor and immortality, far above the honor and nature of angels, tho that be grand, and a little higher than perfect mankind. (2 Pet. 1:4; Rom. 2:7; Psa. 8:5.) In view of all this we may well exhort one another to “lay aside every weight, and to run with patience the race set before us in the gospel, looking unto Jesus, the author of our faith, until he shall become the finisher of it.”
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“A SPIRIT HATH NOT FLESH AND BONES.”
—JUNE 19.—MATT. 28:8-20.—
“I am he that liveth, and was dead; and behold I am alive for evermore.”—Rev. 1:18.
WOMAN had the honor of being first to be made acquainted with the fact of our Lord’s resurrection, and to receive his first message thereafter. Perhaps this was in part because the feminine mind seems naturally to grasp such subjects more quickly than the masculine mind, by what is sometimes termed intuitive faith, in contradistinction to what might be termed analytical faith. Or this may have been as a special recognition of woman’s tender sympathy, which sought the earliest opportunity to bring balms and spices and to otherwise show sympathy and love for the deceased. At all events the women, who were earliest at the sepulchre, had a rich reward for their service, and for the love which prompted it.
They were fearful and surprised when they received the angel’s message that Jesus was risen; yet they grasped the fact by “intuitive faith.” As they eagerly ran to carry the joyful news to the brethren, Jesus met them in the way, revealing himself in such a body as they could recognize. They worshiped at his feet, and held him fast, as tho fearful that he would leave them; but the Master consoled them, and sent them on their journey as bearers of his message to his disciples.
His words, “Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father … and to your Father, to my God and to your God” (John 20:17), were doubtless uttered at this time, and need examination; because they have been sadly misconstrued. Professor Young’s Lexicon shows that the word here rendered touch has the significance of “hold on.” Mary evidently had already touched the Lord, for, as Matthew declares, they were holding the Lord by the feet. They evidently were fearful that the power which had raised our Lord would transport him elsewhere. Probably, too, from the time the angels told them that he was risen, they had been discussing the matter and remembered that he had so told them and had said that he would “ascend up where he was before.” So now, when they saw him and really embraced his feet they feared to let go, lest they should see him no more. From this standpoint of view our Lord’s words plainly meant: Do not hold me as tho fearful that you will never see me more; my time to ascend to your Father and God and mine has not yet come. Go carry the news to the brethren. And remember that my God is your God, my Father in heaven is your Father in heaven.
In view of the fact that our Lord thus sent women as his special messengers, we may well consider it as an indication
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to us that while the Lord and the Apostles never commissioned women to take the chief and public place in the preaching of the Gospel, yet they have a good place in this great service of the truth, a not less noble, tho less public mission in connection with the promulgation of the gospel. It is safe for us to suppose that the natural tenderness and love supplemented by the holy spirit of love, fits and qualifies her for many important tho less obtrusive and aggressive services for the Lord and his people. And happy are the brethren, and happy the sisters in the Church of Christ, where their mutual helpfulness in the service is recognized, and where each cooperates with the other, and seeks to follow as nearly as possible the divine order and custom in the use of their respective talents. See “Man and woman in the divine order,” in our issue of July, ’93.
The narrative of the sealing of the sepulchre and the setting of the watch, lest the disciples should steal away the Lord’s body, seems to show conclusively that the religious leaders of the Jews were thoroughly blinded, and that our Lord’s character, works and teachings, had no influence whatever upon them;—that they had not the slightest suspicion of who he was, nor of the fulfilment of his prediction that he would arise from the dead. Their only thought was that a fraud might be perpetrated by his disciples. But their evil suspicions were overruled by the Lord for good, and became a testimony of the truth, and an assistance to faith on the part of believers. It was not necessary to our Lord’s resurrection that the stone before the sepulchre should be moved, and the body from within also be removed; because the body which he has now is no more his former body of flesh than that body of flesh was his former spirit body, which he had before he became a man: nor were the atoms of matter composing this earthly body transformed into spiritual atoms to compose his spiritual body, any more than our natural bodies will be our spiritual bodies, if we have part in the first resurrection, or their elements be required from which to construct our spiritual bodies. The Apostle Paul makes this very clear by his statement, “there is an animal body and there is a spiritual body.”
These two kinds of bodies are dissimilar. A fleshly, an earthly or animal body is composed of flesh, blood and bones; but, as our Master declared, “a spirit hath not flesh and bones,” etc. As our Lord could not use his heavenly or spirit body, when he came to be man’s substitute and ransom price, and as he was therefore obliged to lay aside the glory of that higher nature and humble himself and take “the form of a servant, for the suffering of death,” so, when he had finished the suffering and death, finished the work that the
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Father had given him to do, and was to be received up again into the glory which he had with the Father before the world was, the human body would no longer be suitable. He must have again a spirit body. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.” The form of a servant would not be suitable for him whom the Father delighted to honor and to highly exalt even above his former glorious station—”far above angels and principalities and powers and every name that is named.” He therefore must be given a glorious body, “the express image of the Father’s person;”—and such his resurrection body was.
It is difficult for some, because of long-established habits of incorrect thought on this subject, to realize what the Apostle Paul means when he says, “Tho we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him [so] no more;” or what the Apostle Peter means when he says, “He was put to death in the flesh, but quickened in spirit.” Just what this means may be seen with greatest clearness, perhaps, from the words of the Apostle Paul, in describing the resurrection of the overcoming Church, the first [chief] resurrection,” in which all the members of the body of Christ are to share, with their Head and Lord. Since we are to know “the power of his resurrection” as members of his body (Phil. 3:10), it follows that any description that we can obtain of what our resurrection will be, must of necessity be a description also of his resurrection, since we are to share his resurrection—the first resurrection.
Concerning this first resurrection, the Apostle teaches that not the body that is sown will be raised, but another body, according to divine arrangement. And contrasting these two bodies, the one which we now have, and the one which we shall have, he declares that the body which dies is sown in corruption, the body which shall be is raised in incorruption; the body which dies, dies in weakness, the body which shall be raised will be raised in power; the body which dies, dies in dishonor, the body which is raised will be raised in glory. The body which dies is a natural body, an animal body, an earthly body; the body of the resurrection will be a spiritual body, a heavenly body, not flesh and blood—not a human body.
The point of connection between our Lord’s earthly body and his spiritual body is confused in the minds of many by reason of a certain fact which is not generally taken into consideration, namely, that our Lord, after his resurrection, had a work to do with his disciples to establish their faith in his resurrection, and to prepare and equip them for the work before them, of proclaiming the gospel to every creature. Because they were still natural men, and had not yet fully received the baptism of the holy spirit which came upon them at Pentecost, after Jesus was glorified, therefore they were not prepared to understand or appreciate spiritual things; as the Apostle Paul declares, “The natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God, neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned.” But it was necessary that the disciples should believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, before he ascended to the Father, in order that they might be in the proper attitude of heart to be made the recipients of the holy spirit at Pentecost, for it was not to come upon unbelievers, but upon believers.
In choosing how he would reveal himself to his disciples and make known his resurrection from the dead, our Lord surely chose the best method; and yet his method was different from that which he afterward adopted in dealing with the Apostle Paul. To Paul he showed his real body, the brightness of which affected his eyesight, making him blind, and felling him to the earth; shining, as he declared, with greater brightness than the sun at noonday. Had our Lord appeared thus to the women when they went to the sepulchre, or to the disciples, as he met them subsequently, the effect would have been much less favorable than by the method which he did pursue; they were already astounded enough, at the wonderful things which had transpired in the preceding few days. He therefore adopted the method which had been in vogue previously, the method used by angels sent on special missions to men, and by our Lord himself on some of these missions, before his nature was changed—before he “was made flesh”—while he was still a spirit being. For instance, he appeared as a man to Abraham, and talked with him and ate with him; but that appearance to Abraham was not a change of nature, but merely a vailing of the heavenly nature in a body of human flesh. Thus vailed, he could talk with Abraham and Sarah and do so without alarming them. Just so it was after his resurrection; altho he was no longer a man, but had become a partaker of the divine nature, and the express image of his Father’s person, yet he appeared as a man—and in different forms at different times; once as the gardener, to Mary; again as a stranger, to the two who went to Emmaus; and again, in the upper room, he appeared in a body like to his former self, bearing marks of the nails and of the spear. This was to convince Thomas, who declared that otherwise he would not believe in the resurrection; nevertheless with the desired evidence the Lord gave a gentle reproof to the effect that others, who could believe without demanding that physical test, were the more blessed.
Even as it was, with all these precautions and evidences to the “natural man,” we are informed that
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tho they worshiped him, “some doubted.” If he had appeared to them as he appeared to Saul of Tarsus later, can we doubt that they would have been perplexed more than enlightened? They would have been unable to recognize that it was the Lord who had previously been a spirit being, and who became a human being for our redemption, who had now been revived from death, no longer a man but a spirit being: that now he possessed all the powers of a spirit being, to appear in any form found desirable—as a burning bush or as a man, as a fisherman, or as a gardener, or as a wayfarer, or as his former self. As the Apostles had time to gradually take in the situation, they understood that it was he, their Lord, yet that he was now changed, and totally unlike his former self, and without human limitations. They were not prepared to understand the meaning of the teaching that we must all be “changed,” in the twinkling of an eye, during the last trumpet, in order that we may “be like him, and see him as he is”—not as he was, nor as we are.
Our Lord’s message, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth,” is in sharp contrast with his previous utterances, prior to his resurrection, while he was finishing the work of sacrifice which the Father had given him to do. Then he had said repeatedly, “Of my own self I can do nothing; as I hear I speak.” What was the change? Why now speak of himself so differently—as possessing a power which he previously disclaimed? It was because he had been “changed.”—He was no longer the man Christ Jesus, to suffer death; but having suffered it he was now risen, glorified, “Lord of all.” His own trial and testing for worthiness to be heir of all was past. His resurrection as a spirit being was the evidence that he was accepted as “worthy to receive glory and honor, dominion and
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might, forever and ever.” And not only so, but by his death he had purchased humanity and all the hopes, privileges, rights and interests originally belonging to humanity, as well as those conferred upon it through the divine oath of promise to father Abraham, to Isaac and Jacob, and David. These words, then, were a modest announcement of the great victory won for himself, and for Adam and his race. Such an announcement of his own victory and of the purchase of mankind, and of his present power, therefore, to uplift mankind out of sin and out of death, was a proper prelude or preface to the commission which he then and there gave to the Apostles, saying, “Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations.”
His own teaching and that of the apostles had previously been confined to the Jewish nation, in harmony with God’s covenant with that people, through Moses; but now, having sealed the New Covenant with his blood, having consummated this New Covenant, ratifying it at Calvary, he was authorizing that it be put into operation. Now was the proper time, therefore, to declare it to be both broader and deeper than the Law Covenant instituted by Moses, (1) in that it is not confined to Israel after the flesh, but is for all nations, (2) in that it is efficacious to the perfecting of all those who come unto the Father through its mediator, and according to its terms, and not merely a temporary assistance.
The teachings which were to be presented to the nations are specified by our Lord as being—”whatsoever I have commanded you.” This, then, proves that the kernel of the Gospel is not the Jewish Law, nor certain scientific theories and abstruse problems; but the simple teachings which our Lord delivered to the apostles. What were these?
(1) He taught that all men were sinners.
(2) That he came into the world to “give his life a ransom”—a corresponding price for the sins of the whole world.
(3) That no man could come unto the Father, but by him.
(4) That all who would come by him must, in addition to the exercise of faith in him, also take up his cross and follow him.
(5) That all believers are one with him, as the branches of a grapevine are parts of the vine.
(6) That every branch to abide in him must bring forth fruit, else it will be taken away.
(7) That those who trust in him are to hope for and to expect his second coming—”I will come again, and receive you unto myself.”
(8) That the ultimate end of our hope for all promised blessings is in and through a resurrection of the dead.
(9) That Love is the law of the New Covenant—”Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, mind, soul and strength; and, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
We are fully authorized, therefore, to teach and to believe that these are the points of faith and practice which are necessary to both Jews and Gentiles who shall be favored with the call of this Gospel age; and that nothing else is necessary or pertinent to the “doctrine of our Lord Jesus Christ” or “the faith once delivered to the saints.” Whoever makes tests greater or lesser than these is in error.
Our Lord’s statement that he would be with his people always even unto the end of the age, no more signifies that he did not leave the world, than it signifies that his hearers would continue to live until the end of the age. His words here are not to be understood as contradictory of his words elsewhere; but they should be understood in harmony with other statements, to the effect that, while he would be absent from his people during this age, having “ascended up on high, there to appear in the presence of God for us,” nevertheless, his power and spirit and care and love would be with his people throughout the age; to guard their interests, to overrule in their affairs, and to cause that all things should work together for good to them that love him;—until in the end of the age, according to his promise, he would appear a second time, not as a sin-offering, but unto salvation—to receive his Church unto himself in glory, and to bless the sin-sick and blinded world with the true light which, it is promised, shall enlighten every man.—John 1:9.