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VOL. XX. JANUARY 1, 1899. No. 1.
Greeting and Exhortation for the
New Year, 1899………………………… 3
Full Submission of Our Wills……………… 4
Not Strange Concerning Fiery Trials………5
The Church’s Divinely Appointed Mission………6
The Correct View………………………… 8
Poem: Now His Will is Mine—1899……………… 12
Questions: In Re Communication between
Heaven and Earth………………………12
Are Sacrifices & Sufferings Necessary……… 12
Follow the Lamb Whithersoever
He Goeth……………………………… 13
Water Turned into Wine………………………16
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THIS JOURNAL AND ITS MISSION
THIS journal is set for the defence of the only true foundation of the Christian’s hope now being so generally repudiated,—Redemption through the precious blood of “the man Christ Jesus who gave himself a ransom [a corresponding price, a substitute] for all.” (1 Pet. 1:19; 1 Tim. 2:6.) Building up on this sure foundation the gold, silver and precious stones (1 Cor. 3:11-15; 2 Pet. 1:5-11) of the Word of God, its further mission is to—”Make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery which … has been hid in God, … to the intent that now might be made known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God”—”which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed.”—Eph. 3:5-9,10.
It stands free from all parties, sects and creeds of men, while it seeks more and more to bring its every utterance into fullest subjection to the will of God in Christ, as expressed in the Holy Scriptures. It is thus free to declare boldly whatsoever the Lord hath spoken;—according to the divine wisdom granted unto us, to understand. Its attitude is not dogmatical, but confident; for we know whereof we affirm, treading with implicit faith upon the sure promises of God. It is held as a trust, to be used only in his service; hence our decisions relative to what may and what may not appear in its columns must be according to our judgment of his good pleasure, the teaching of his Word, for the upbuilding of his people in grace and knowledge. And we not only invite but urge our readers to prove all its utterances by the infallible Word to which reference is constantly made, to facilitate such testing.
TO US THE SCRIPTURES CLEARLY TEACH
That the Church is “the Temple of the Living God”—peculiarly “His workmanship;” that its construction has been in progress throughout the Gospel age—ever since Christ became the world’s Redeemer and the chief corner stone of this Temple, through which, when finished, God’s blessings shall come “to all people,” and they find access to him.—1 Cor. 3:16,17; Eph. 2:20-22; Gen. 28:14; Gal. 3:29.
That meantime the chiseling, shaping and polishing, of consecrated believers in Christ’s atonement for sin, progresses; and when the last of these “living stones,” “elect and precious,” shall have been made ready, the great Master Workman will bring all together in the First Resurrection; and the Temple shall be filled with his glory, and be the meeting place between God and men throughout the Millennium.—Rev. 15:5-8.
That the Basis of Hope, for the Church and the World, lies in the fact that “Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man,” “a ransom for all,” and will be “the true light which lighteth every manthat cometh into the world,” “in due time.”—Heb. 2:9; John 1:9; 1 Tim. 2:5,6.
That the Hope of the Church is that she may be like her Lord, “see him as he is,” be “partaker of the divine nature,” and share his glory as his joint-heir.—1 John 3:2; John 17:24; Rom. 8:17; 2 Pet. 1:4.
That the present mission of the Church is the perfecting of the saints for the future work of service; to develop in herself every grace; to be God’s witness to the world; and to prepare to be the kings and priests of the next age.—Eph. 4:12; Matt. 24:14; Rev. 1:6; 20:6.
That the hope for the World lies in the blessings of knowledge and opportunity to be brought to all by Christ’s Millennial Kingdom—the restitution of all that was lost in Adam, to all the willing and obedient, at the hands of their Redeemer and his glorified Church.—Acts 3:19-21; Isa. 35.
CHARLES T. RUSSELL, Editor.
SUBSCRIPTIONS AND BUSINESS COMMUNICATIONS
WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY,
“BIBLE HOUSE,” 56-60 ARCH STREET, ALLEGHENY, PA., U.S.A.
SUBSCRIPTION PRICE, $1.00 A YEAR IN ADVANCE.
MONEY MAY BE SENT BY EXPRESS, N.Y. DRAFT, MONEY ORDER, OR REGISTERED.
FROM FOREIGN COUNTRIES BY FOREIGN MONEY ORDERS, ONLY. SPECIAL
TERMS TO THE LORD’S POOR, AS FOLLOWS:
Those of the interested who, by reason of old age or accident, or other adversity, are unable to pay for the TOWER will be supplied FREE, if they send a Postal Card each December, stating their case and requesting the paper. We are not only willing, but anxious, that all such be on our list constantly.
We again remind our readers of these letters specially prepared and ready for the signature of any desiring to use them. Send for a sample, and then, if it suits your purpose, ascertain the address of each member of the church from which you wish to withdraw, and notify us of the number. We will be pleased to send you, free, enough letters to send one to each—with suitable tracts and envelopes.
Experience proves the wisdom of this course: for your real sentiments, motives, etc., are so apt to be misunderstood and misrepresented. You owe it to your sectarian friends and to the truth, not to be misunderstood—not to have your good deed evil spoken of, or evil thought of. Besides, you did not join the preacher, but the congregation;—hence, your withdrawal and the reasons therefor should be addressed to the congregation, each, all.
POEMS AND HYMNS OF DAWN—CHEAPER
The cost of paper, printing, binding, etc., is constantly falling (in other words, the purchasing value of our gold standard dollar is constantly rising): and thus we are enabled to reduce the price of these books nearly one-half. The price hereafter will be 50 cents each plus postage 8 cents each. The wholesale price (granted to TOWER subscribers) is one-half, namely 25 cents each, by freight or express,—if by mail, add 8 cents postage.
We know of no other collection of poems and hymns so choice as this one.
UNLESS WE HEAR FROM YOU PROMPTLY,
YOUR NAME IS LIKELY TO BE DROPPED FROM OUR LIST,
IF YOUR SUBSCRIPTION IS IN ARREARS
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GREETING AND EXHORTATION FOR THE NEW YEAR
DEAR Friends of the WATCH TOWER family, accept, please, our editorial greetings and good wishes, as we cross the threshold of another year. We trust that each of us can truthfully sing with the poet,—
“Looking back, we praise the way,
God has led us, day by day.”
And let us remember that the great Watchman of Spiritual Israel, the Lord, changes not; his exceeding great and precious promises are all yea and amen to those who obey him—to all who by faith abide in him, trusting in the merit of his atonement—who, possessing his spirit of love, are seeking to walk circumspectly in his footsteps. To all such, if they continue thus and abound, we guarantee that the year, 1899, will be a happy year, basing our guarantee upon the Lord’s promises.
But how many, who know this full well, are disposed to be fearful, doubtful, unbelieving: and thereby are paving the way for troubles! How long it requires for some of the pupils in the school of Christ to find out why they are in this school and under the Teacher! Surely, the object should be to be taught—to learn of him whom God has appointed to be the Teacher of all his justified and consecrated sons, adopted into his family. We do not come to this Teacher to obtain his certificate that we need none of his instruction; but that from his Word in conjunction with the daily experiences in life (his “providences” to all his pupils) we may grow daily in his likeness;—in grace and in knowledge.
If at first we, as pupils, get confused and mistake self-will for God’s-will, and our Teacher points this out to us by some failure of our projects, we are not (1) to be rebellious and resentful of the lesson; nor (2) to be discouraged and disheartened. On the contrary, we are to profit by every experience; seeking that the lessons of one day shall be put in practice and become our aids on following days.
The most important lesson of this school-term is Faith: the faith with which we became the Lord’s and entered his school must grow. And our faith can only grow by knowledge (We do not refer to worldly knowledge, worldly learning.), knowledge of the Lord—of his methods, his plan, his character. Hence we must study well our Teacher’s words and general conduct and as well his providences or private instructions to us individually—interpreting these always by his words. Much of what we accepted at first by faith (respecting the Lord’s goodness and wisdom) will gradually become knowledge: giving basis for still greater lengths and breadths of faith as well as for greater love and appreciation of our Redeemer.
As in other schools, so in this, different degrees of learning are represented in the students;—some are in the primary stage of development; some in the intermediate, and some in the graduating class. The graduating degree of discipleship in the school of Christ is the one that all are to strive for: it is absolutely essential that we reach this degree, if we would pass examination—finish our course with joy and be granted the Master’s “Well done!” and the prize of our high calling at the end.
We want to outline this course of “study” and to ask all the dear brethren and sisters of the WATCH TOWER family, who have not already started in this course, to take it up for the year 1899. Blessed are sure to be the results. You will find as you progress in it the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, ruling in your hearts: this will transmute the trials of faith and of patience into blessings, and the sorrows and disappointments of earthly hopes into channels of God’s grace, and the perplexities of life into full assurances
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of faith. This graduating degree of faith, hope and love is attained by—
A FULL SUBMISSION OF OUR WILLS TO THE LORD’S WILL!
Do you answer,—Why, that is what I have been wanting to do ever since I consecrated myself to the Lord; but I have not attained it;—What more can I do? Ah yes! so it has been with all fully consecrated children of God; for a long time we all made the same mistake of wanting to fully submit our wills to God’s will, instead of doing so.
A good wish is an excellent thing, very important indeed, but if the wish does not lead to performance it is valueless. Some people never get beyond the wishing point in any of life’s affairs: they wish to rise at a certain hour in the morning, or to attend to certain recognized duties, or render some service, or speak some word of kindness or encouragement in the name of the Lord,—but they never fulfil their good wishes in deeds. The good wish should be followed by a good and determined will, which is sure to be favored by a way in matters fully in accord with the divine will. Now, without dropping a single good wish, let us begin immediately to make this a successful year, by throwing the entire strength of our wills into doing.
But now take care—you are on treacherous ground: a strong will is as dangerous as it is valuable. If misdirected, you have started a force, an energy, which may lead you far astray. And conscientious people are in danger along this line especially: for when their wills get hold of a matter which their consciences approve they may make as much of a blunder as did Saul of Tarsus under similar circumstances.
There is but one safe course; and to prepare the Lord’s people to know, to realize this, is the object of all the preliminary courses in the School of Christ, leading up to this graduating course. This final lesson to be learned is that the wills that are to be exercised in good deeds and good words are not our own wills, except as by adoption we have taken the Lord’s will to be ours. When we became the Lord’s pupils it was by and as a consequence of the surrender of our own wills; and our first lessons in this school were in keeping our wills dead. We can see as we look backward that by the Great Teacher’s aid we won some victories over self-will, and have come to the place where our real desires are, as expressed by the poet,—
“Lord, at length Thy love hath conquered,
None of self, and all of Thee.”
But even after we have adopted the Lord’s will (as instead of our own natural preferences) and made it ours; and after we have resolved to do the Lord’s will;—still we are in danger and need to walk carefully,
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lest we misapprehend the Lord’s will and adopt the will and plans of fellow men or of a church, instead of the Lord’s will. Consequently, without despising human aid in the ascertainment of the Lord’s will, while remembering that God still, as in times past, makes use of human agencies in instructing his people, it must not be forgotten that Satan also uses human agents to mislead and to deceive, and that God permits this, in order to teach us that he is the real Teacher. Hence he puts his Word, the Bible, as the test by which his people are to distinguish between true and false teachers, saying, “If they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them.”—Isa. 8:20.
Coming to the Scriptures to ascertain God’s will, we find that the great work which God asks of us is not work for others, but work in ourselves; subduing, conquering, ruling self. “This is the will of God [concerning you], even your sanctification!” (1 Thes. 4:3.) Everything else, therefore,—our service of the household of faith, and our doing good unto all men, by home and foreign missions, etc., etc., is subservient to this most important work within. For, as the Apostle by inspiration declares, Tho we should preach the gospel eloquently to others, and tho we should give all our goods to feed the poor, or become martyrs for a good cause, without love, the spirit of Christ and the Father, developed in us as the ruling principle of life, we would be nothing, from the divine standpoint.
On the contrary, if we be sanctified to God by the truth—if our wills be dead, and the Lord’s will be fully accepted as ours, in thought, word and act, we have attained the will of God and will win the prize as “overcomers”—even if, opportunities being denied us, we never preached, never gave to the poor and never suffered as martyrs for the truth’s sake. Let us all note well this point,—”This is the will of God [concerning you], even your sanctification.” Let nothing becloud or obscure this truth;—neither other truths nor errors. Let it dominate our course in life, and then, if God’s will is really our will, we have a clearly marked pathway before us, which is very important.
But without doubt, God will open before all such opportunities to serve the truth to others,—to let their light shine to the glory of the Father and the blessing of fellow creatures; for this is his command to us: and we may be sure he gives no commands impossible to be obeyed. If you have been seeking opportunities of service and finding none, there must be something wrong: you may have been seeking some special service of your own preference (your old will meddling with your newly adopted will—the Lord’s). Possibly the great Teacher sees pride remaining—pride which you would have been prompt to crush, had you recognized
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it; but which hid itself from you under the cloak of “self-respect.” Possibly the great Teacher by his providence and his Word is saying to you, “Do with thy might what thy hand findeth to do.” Possibly he sees that you would be spoiled by giving you a more important service for others, before you have learned the lesson of humility—all important in the Lord’s sight. Act quickly, therefore, the time is short,—”Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God [to do whatever service his providence has made possible to you], that he may exalt you in due time.”—1 Pet. 5:6.
“THINK IT NOT STRANGE CONCERNING THE FIERY TRIALS.”
Have you never suffered for righteousness’ sake—a martyr to principle? Strange, when the Master so plainly declared that “Whosoever will live godly shall suffer persecution.” Can it be that the Lord erred? Is not the danger rather that you have not been living godly? You say that it is your highest wish, to live godly: but do not forget the distinction already drawn between wishing and doing. Resign your own will entirely, put it all away and begin to do the Lord’s, item by item, just as you are able to find and prove it in his Word—using the best human help you can obtain, in this seeking and proving. Soon the persecutions will come: and from most unexpected quarters.
And when the persecutions come, be prepared for them—forearmed by God’s Word; for they will be temptations to your flesh: through them the Adversary will seek to embitter your soul and to stir up in you the elements of the old nature reckoned dead—anger, malice, hatred, envy, strife. If this be the effect of persecutions in you, the Adversary is gaining the victory—you are not overcoming evil, but being overcome by it. The old nature will even call upon its best qualities to fight against persecution—it will call upon your natural sense of Justice to come, help and resist; it will call upon Conscientiousness to agree that the persecution is unmerited; it will call upon Benevolence and Spirituality, your love of family and friends, and every other good quality of your being—all will be appealed to either to fight the persecution or to abandon the course of godliness which led to it.
Then you will be in the thick of the fight, and unless previously armed with the panoply supplied in the divine Word, you are almost sure to lose faith, become terrified and flee. And whoever does this is sure to be wounded, if not captured by the enemy: for our armor is a front armor, not a back armor. It is invulnerable so long as we stand firm for the right, the truth, in our great Captain’s name and strength—it is a hindrance to those who draw back.
But why should we flee terrified? Is not this the very test of our loyalty and devotion to the Lord and his Word, for which all of our previous experiences and instructions were but preparations? Is not this the very test the Lord declares indispensable to all who would be accounted victors and be made his joint-heirs in the Kingdom? Is not this the very opportunity for which we prayed, and are not the incidental persecutions exactly what our Lord forewarned us would be part of the cost of faithful discipleship? And are not these the very persecutions whose absence earlier in our Christian experiences made us wonder whether or not we were acceptable sons of God?—Heb. 12:8.
Surely, our answer to these questions must be, Yea, Lord! even tho because of weakness of the flesh the answer be not joyous as it should be, but through unbidden tears. And with this answer on our part the Lord is pleased; and angels of his mercy—his promises exceeding great and precious—minister unto us and strengthen us.
That is the time to “fight the good fight”—and, triumphing over self-will completely, to accept the buffetings and slanders and misrepresentations of good intentions and good deeds with meekness and patience. That is the time when the Lord’s spirit of love, dwelling in us richly, will manifest itself in the control not only of our words and actions, but of our inmost thoughts. If even so much as a bitter feeling against our traducers and maligners arises, it is to be fought, and so complete a victory gained over it that every fiber of our beings will be in sweet accord with our Great Teacher’s instructions, “Love your enemies. Pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you. Bless and injure not.”
Your earliest definition of “injure not” will probably have been that you should not kill or wound your enemies physically: but as you look to the Teacher and heed his word you will hear him say, “Learn of me,” and you will note with the Apostle, that tho he did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth, yet, “When he was reviled he reviled not in return; when he suffered he threatened not; but committed his cause to him that judgeth righteously.” (1 Pet. 2:22,23.) If you are a faithful pupil it will not be long until you see that the perfect law of liberty, the law of Christ, is a discerner of the very thoughts and intents of the heart, and that while you must hate all sin, you cannot hate any sinner and yet have the love of God perfected in your heart. You see that this means that you not only must not retaliate and revile your foes, but must not even wish to do so. The evil wish must be conquered and the selfish conditions which gave it birth must be utterly destroyed and replaced with love—the spirit of Christ.—Compare 1 Cor. 4:12 with 1 Cor. 6:10.
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Are you tempted to repine, to feel disappointed at your lot in life or your experiences by the way? That is the time to remember that all repining, discontent and disappointments indicate that self-will in you is not so dead as you had hoped. For he who has buried his own will completely in the will of the Lord can know no disappointment; but in every affair of his life he sees by faith divine appointment or supervision, and hears the Word of the Lord in all of life’s affairs assuring him: “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28.) It is one of the evidences of reaching the graduating condition of heart, when we are able to take the oppositions of the great Adversary and of the world and of our own flesh patiently, uncomplainingly, unmurmuringly, “joyfully”—as a part of the disciplinary experience meted out to us by our all-wise and all-loving Lord.
Such is the “good fight.” The first battle is the severest, and each subsequent victory is easier; for with each victory the new will (the Lord’s will in us) grows stronger, and Hope’s sight of the things God has in reservation for the faithful grows keener, and Faith’s strength and endurance greater. And with the very first victory come blessings, which are added to after every victory: blessings of rest, peace, joy in the holy spirit and full assurance of faith, as our Teacher promised,—”Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad!”
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From this standpoint, and from no other, is it possible to accept with fortitude and resignation whatever tests of patience, perseverance, faith, hope and love the Lord may see fit to permit to come upon you. In this condition all our experiences will result in blessings, however unpropitious they may appear on the surface.
It is from this standpoint (of victory over self-will—unto sanctification of spirit through obedience to the truth) that all the blessings and promises of the divine Word are ours in the fullest sense—”All things are yours, … whether things present, or things to come; … [for] ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.” This is the graduating degree of the School of Christ, dearly beloved, in which we all seek to be approved during the year just begun. Let us unite our hearts and prayers, and above all our new wills, with each other’s and with our Master’s, to this end that we may be wholly sanctified and for the Master’s use, present and prospective, made meet. “And the very God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.”—Rom. 16:20.
Let our prayers every morning ascend to God,—”Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my Strength, and my Redeemer.” (Psa. 19:14.) And every evening let us review the day, judging our hearts (wills) by the Lord’s law of perfect love—praying his forgiveness of shortcomings, and thanking our Lord for the strength and grace which brought its victories.
* * *
“Come, let us anew our journey pursue,
Roll round with the year,
And never stand still till the Master appear.
His adorable will let us gladly fulfil,
And our talents improve,
By the patience of hope, and the labor of love.”
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THE CHURCH’S DIVINELY APPOINTED MISSION
“Seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not.”—2 Cor. 4:1.
WHAT is the mission of the Church?—What ministry or service has the Lord appointed to his consecrated people? This question is one that should be prominent and clear before the mind of every consecrated child of God. It is of the utmost importance that the servant know what is expected of him before proceeding far in rendering service; otherwise he will be more than likely to waste his energies in wrong directions—leaving undone those things which ought to be done, and giving attention to matters which would better be attended to otherwise according to the plan and arrangement of the great Supervisor of the plan of salvation—the Lord.
The answers to this question throughout Christendom would probably divide themselves into three groups—two of them quite unscriptural, and the third, altho Scriptural, by reason of other errors generally associated with it, is made unreasonable, and held in its purity and consistently by but few. We will examine these as follows:—
(1) THE ROMAN CATHOLIC VIEW of the Church’s mission is that she is the ruler of the world, appointed to be such by the Almighty, and duly empowered and authorized to rule over kings and nations, to order all the affairs of earth, moral, political, financial, social and ecclesiastical,—the pope and his hierarchy constituting this spiritual kingdom. This spiritual kingdom, it claims, reigned gloriously in the past,—during the period which the remainder of mankind denominate “the Dark Ages.” They claim that now this kingdom is suffering a reverse at the hands of infidelity, Protestantism, etc., and is deprived of its proper, God-given and God-intended rights, as the supreme government of the earth. It claims that very shortly there will be a grand
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change in earth’s affairs, which will put back again, into its possession and under its control absolutely, all peoples, nations, kindreds and tongues, so that again, as of yore, the pope shall be the recognized head of the world, all other religions be overthrown and effectually stamped out, and that thus the world shall be blessed—by a return to medieval conditions.
We dispute this theory, and hold that the Scriptures teach to the contrary: that the reign of the Church as the Kingdom of God to rule and bless the world is declared to be not during this “present evil world” or age, but in one to follow this, to be inaugurated by our Lord Jesus with power from on high, at his second advent. The Scriptures point out, in harmony with sound reason, that the sufferings of the Church are not coincident with her reign, but precede it. The sufferings of this present time, they assure us, are not worthy to be compared with the glories which shall be (future) revealed in us. (Rom. 8:18.) These sufferings, tho they are to be unto death, are to be esteemed light afflictions and to be rejoiced in, because of the divine assurance that they are working out for us (preparing us for) a far more exceeding and an eternal weight of glory, as yet unseen.—2 Cor. 4:17.
(2) THE COMMON VIEW AMONGST PROTESTANTS
respecting the mission of the Church resembles the foregoing considerably, except that the pope and his associates are rejected as respects their claims to special divine authority to rule the world. The claim of the Protestants, however, is that religion should undertake to rule the world, and to place its representatives in power amongst the nations; and that higher and better forms of religious sentiment should be cultivated, the religion of the world growing with its politics and its social conditions, and thus leading the world onward and lifting the degraded masses up to good citizenship. In other words, this claim, growingly prevalent amongst Protestants, is what may be termed the worldly idea of the Church’s mission; viz., to engage in merciful, philanthropic, educational, moral and benevolent works, in the interest of mankind. In other words, this view recognizes the Church as the moral influence which God has placed in the world for the world’s uplift and regeneration.
We hold that this view is wrong, wholly unscriptural; that it is a mistake to suppose that the Church is placed in the world as a reformatory institution. But if we are asked, Should Christians not take a deep interest in all reforms—in temperance reform, for instance, in social purity, in political reform, in good citizenship, in anti-tobacco crusades, in socialistic developments, in financial reforms, etc.? we answer, Yes, indeed; no one could be a true Christian and yet be without sympathy as respects all these and every other possible effort for the mental, moral and physical uplift of our race. And yet you say that this is not the mission of the Church? Yes, we answer; altho our sympathies are with every good work, we are at the same time to inquire of the Lord respecting how, where, what, we may do in his service, if we would be colaborers together with him—”Lord, what wouldst thou have me to do?” Our query should not be addressed to fellow-men, nor should we accept the burdens and duties and obligations which their judgments and consciences would lay upon us. Rather we are to hearken to the voice of the Lord (the Scriptures), and are to follow his directions, regardless of our own and other people’s conjectures as to what would be most expedient.
Nowhere in the Scriptures are God’s people directed to spend their time in efforts at morally reforming the world. Our Lord did not engage in this work, neither did the apostles, nor did they offer any suggestion to the effect that the work of the Church should ever differ from the work which they performed and directed us to continue. On the contrary, they declare that we have the apostles for ensamples of how we ought to walk. They declare that our Lord’s course was in full, perfect harmony with the divine will and plan, and that the apostles faithfully followed his example: and we are exhorted to simply become coworkers together with God in his work, already instituted,—not to alter or attempt to improve on them. There were moralists and moral reformers in our Lord’s day; some along the line of total abstinence, some along the line of asceticism, inculcating rigid self-denials in food, clothing, etc., as essential to a moral uplift of the people. There were also political reformers, who sought the establishment of republican institutions, in his day; and social reformers, who sought to establish forms of communism. There were also dress reformers at that time, who advocated certain peculiar styles of clothing, beneficial to health, morals and religious sanctity. Do we find that our Lord or his apostles ever associated with any of these, or that they ever in any word or act gave sanction or encouragement to any of these theories or reforms? No, not once.
It may, indeed, be claimed that a kind of Christian communism at the beginning went without rebuke, even if it were not commended by the apostles. We answer that the short-lived communism of the early Church was to some extent the result of the new doctrines promulgated by Christ, the central feature of which was love to God and love to fellow-men, as opposed to the selfish sentiments of fallen man: so that without divine instruction there was a disposition on the part of believers to have “all things in common.” But if the holy spirit sanctioned and permitted this, in the beginning, it was evidently only as a lesson, as an
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experience to the Church, to show that union and communion of this kind is not practicable under present conditions, while all are troubled by imperfections of the flesh—their own and that of other men. At all events we do know that the Lord did not permit that communism to last long, but, as we are told, permitted instead a great persecution to arise against the Church, which scattered the would-be communists everywhere to preach the Gospel.
Nor did the apostles ever recommend such procedure, or attempt such an arrangement amongst the Christians elsewhere. If, then, the teaching and example of our Lord and his apostles are our criterion of the will of the Lord, the Church’s commission is not to morally reform the world. But perhaps someone will say, Times are changed from what they were, and the Church’s work should change accordingly. We answer, that the Apostle Paul declares in so many words, “I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.” (Acts 20:27.) Whatsoever, therefore, is additional to that which was stated by the Apostle is not the counsel of God. And any counsel from any other quarter is not to be received by Christians, and is sure to be misleading. Again, the Apostle says to Timothy, respecting the Word of God, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Tim. 3:16,17.) If, therefore, it was God’s design that the Church’s mission should change at some future time we should be able to find in the Scriptures some intimation of this kind, and some authority for the change. And if we find no authority for a change in her mission, we should make no change.
But some one inquires, Did not our Lord especially go after the publicans and sinners, and specially welcome them; and was not this an indication to us that the Church’s work is to be largely amongst the lower, depraved classes of mankind? We answer that the publicans and harlots were not made the subjects of special missionary efforts on the part of our Lord and his apostles: it was when these classes came to his ministry, to his preaching, manifested interest therein and signs of repentance and reformation, that he received them cordially; he did not refuse to recognize them, as did the Pharisees. The record is not that he went on slumming missions, after the publicans and harlots, but, he “receiveth [publicans and] sinners,” and that many of these lower classes heard him gladly. (Luke 15:2; Mark 12:37.) Furthermore, be it noticed, these publicans and sinners were members of the Jewish Church—for that entire nation was accepted of God as his people, and they were all included under the typical sacrifices for sin, on the Day of Atonement; and they were all reckoned as under the Law Covenant—Covenanters. These lower classes had slipped away from the outward observance of the Jewish law, but our Lord testified that many of them were in far better condition of heart to receive his message than were many of the outwardly pious Pharisees.
(3) THE CORRECT VIEW OF THE CHURCH’S MISSION
The question then arises, If the Church is not to rule the world in this present age, and if she is not to be the world’s instructor, uplifter, by moral reforms, what is her mission—what other mission can she have? And this brings us to the third view, which quite a number hold in a more or less confused way—their commingled errors beclouding and vitiating the truth.
(a) Her chief mission is toward herself. She is to lift up the light in the world, the True Light,—not with the expectation of enlightening the world, not with the thought that her feeble lamp shall scatter earth’s night of sin and darkness of superstition; for that can be accomplished only by the coming of the morning, the Millennial morning, when the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in his beams. She holds up the light of the truth, the light of the Gospel, during this night, to attract some—”a peculiar people”—not to attract and gather all, but “even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” (Acts 2:39.) Her message respecting the love of God and the salvation which is in Christ Jesus, as it rings out into the world, is not expected to awaken the world and to lead the world to the Lord. No, she is merely bearing “witness”—a witness which will have to do also with a future knowledge and opportunity to be granted to the world during the Millennium.
She is instructed by the Word of the lord not to expect that any but a comparatively small number will appreciate her light or her message: as the Prophet foretold, so she has found it, “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” (Isa. 53:1; John 12:38.) As the Scriptures declare, so she finds it, that the vast majority of mankind are blind, so that they cannot see the light: some are stone blind, so as to see nothing: while others are partially blind and can get a little glimmer of it by which they can discern some things indistinctly. In hearing, likewise, the world’s ears are dull of hearing—”deaf,” say the Scriptures. Some hear nothing, others hear very imperfectly, few hear the message of divine love and mercy clearly and distinctly. The Church is to realize that her mission is not to these, the blind and deaf, but to him “that hath an ear [to hear],—let him hear!”—Rev. 2:7; 3:6,13,22.
Our Lord remarked this condition to his followers,
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when present with them in the world, saying, “Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear,” and he declared that his parables and teachings were not uttered with the intention of making the blind see and the deaf hear, but purposely so that the deaf might not hear, and so that the blind might not see. When the disciples inquired respecting the interpretation of a parable, he said, “To you it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of God; but to them that are without, all these things are done in parables: that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand.” (Luke 8:10.) They had indeed the natural sight, and the natural hearing, but they lacked the mental sight and hearing. And the message that our dear Master preached, and that he commissioned his apostles and his Church to preach throughout this age, is the same—not for the blind, not for the deaf, but for those “blessed,” favored ones who have eyes and ears.
As our Lord did not expect many to respond to his preaching, and particularly implied that only a small number would be able to do so, saying, “No man can come unto me, except the Father which sent me draw him,” so his Church throughout this age is to realize that when she lifts up the light and lifts up her voice no man will come in response except as the Father draws him. And as the Father drew only a comparatively small remnant of the Jewish nation to our Lord, so the Church should not be surprised that he has drawn only a comparatively small proportion of Gentiles throughout this age.
Following our text the Apostle points out why this is the case: why the majority of mankind are not in a condition of heart to see and appreciate the light, to hear and to rejoice in the Gospel, not in the condition to be drawn by the Father. He declares that it is because “the god of this world [Satan] hath blinded their minds” (vs. 4), and thus hindered the light of divine truth from shining unto them. He points out that all such are in a lost condition, without God and without hope in the world. Not, however, that they are any more lost now than they have been all along for six thousand years; for whoever is not in Christ, whoever is out of relationship to God, is a member of that large class, servants of sin, still under condemnation, still strangers from God, still lost in the wilderness of sin. They have not yet been found by the great Shepherd who promises that in due time all the true sheep shall be found;—that all the Satan- and prejudice-blinded eyes shall be opened to see the light of divine goodness and truth; and all the deaf ears shall be unstopped to hear the message of the grace of God.—Isa. 35:5.
(b) It is another part of the mission of the Church to care for those who do see the light which she holds up, and who are attracted by that light, and who come unto the Lord. She is to teach and instruct such, and to introduce them to the full fellowship of the high calling by making clear to them, as the Lord’s mouthpiece, “what is the hope of our calling,” present and future—now to suffer with Christ for righteousness’ sake, to cultivate his spirit, his disposition, to bear much fruit of the spirit in our own hearts and lives, and thus, under divine supervision, to be fitted, polished and prepared for a place in the glorious Temple of the future, for a share in the glorious work of the incoming age,—the blessing of the world.—1 Cor. 1:26; Eph. 1:18; 2 Thes. 1:11.
The Church is supplied by her glorious Head, Christ Jesus, with certain gifts of the spirit, amongst her members of the earth; and these coworking together in their various offices are to strengthen, establish, upbuild, develop, one another, growing in grace and in the knowledge and spirit of the Head, until the whole Church shall eventually, by the close of this age, be brought to the stature of the fulness of perfection as the Body of Christ, under the Lord Jesus as the Head. (Eph. 4:13.) But she is not to expect that all, even of those who see her light, and who hear her proclamation, and who draw near in harmony with her message, will eventually come into full membership in this glorious Body of Christ. On the contrary, she is assured of the Lord in advance that, while only a few,
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comparatively, will hear her message, the call, a still smaller number will accept the call—for many are called, proportionately, to the few who are chosen—who make their calling and election sure by faithfulness to the conditions imposed.—2 Pet. 1:10.
(c) The conditions imposed upon the Church are designed of the Lord to be crucial tests of her loyalty to him, and to the law of the New Covenant under which she was received by him. Trials, difficulties, persecutions, are useful in proving whether or not her covenant of consecration is from the heart: those who have merely made a lip covenant will be sifted out, manifested, separated from the true ones whom the Lord designates his jewels, and his sons; and whom he purposes to make joint-heirs in the Kingdom with his well-beloved Son, our Lord Jesus. It is for this reason that this call and election or selection of the Church takes place during this present age, while evil is still permitted to reign in the world, and while the majority of mankind are under the blinding influences of the great Adversary, not yet bound.—Rev. 20:1-3.
As our Lord explained, the darkness of sin and error is in direct antagonism with the light of truth, and consequently when his people lift up the light,—”let their light so shine as to glorify the Father in heaven” who has called them “out of darkness into his
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marvelous light,”—the effect upon the darkened world will be to awaken opposition, antagonism; because the effect of the light is to make manifest the evils of darkness which would not otherwise appear; and thus to disturb and make uncomfortable those in sympathy with darkness. Consequently those who love darkness, those who love evil, those who love sin, in its varied forms, hate the light, neither come to the light; but either publicly or secretly oppose the children of the light, the enlightened ones, the light-bearers. And even those who have gotten out of the extreme darkness of moral pollution into a kind of twilight of civilized reformation and moral reform cannot endure the clear, searching light of the true Gospel; they much prefer a measure of darkness.—John 3:20.
It is in consequence of this conflict between light and darkness that our Lord suffered at the hands of those who professed to be children of the light, children of God, and who had at least a little light. Our Lord was not maltreated by the Roman governor and the Roman soldiers of their own volition, for they were so totally blind as not to appreciate anything of the light which he displayed. His persecutors were those who had some light but who hated the brilliancy of the great light which shone upon them. Similarly, all the way down through this Gospel age those who have been burning and shining lights in the world have been hated and persecuted, largely, we might say chiefly, almost exclusively, by those who had some light, but whose light was darkness in comparison to the great light of the holy spirit shining in and through the Lord’s fully consecrated ones. Thus was fulfilled our Lord’s testimony, “If they have hated me, they will also hate you.” “Whosoever will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” The Lord’s followers in the present time are called upon to suffer persecution for righteousness’ sake, not because it is either reasonable or proper, but because the Lord, wishing to test, prove and polish his people, is willing to permit the evil, opposing influences to prosper, and persecute and oppose his “members,” and thus to serve his cause in the preparation of his elect for a future work of service. Thus the persecutors of the “Body,” like the persecutors of the Head, are cooperating to fulfil the divine plan in a manner they little suspect.—John 15:18; 1 John 3:13; 2 Tim. 3:12; 1 Thes. 2:14,15; 2 Thes. 3:4; John 16:2; Acts 14:22.
We might multiply the Scriptural declarations that this is the call of the Church in the present time—to let the light shine and thus to attract persecution, and to endure the persecution for righteousness’ sake, and to be rightly exercised by it in patience, brotherly-kindness, pity and love—toward the persecutors and toward all men.
As it was the mission of our Lord not to rule the world, nor to judge the world, at his first advent, but to lay down his life for the world, so it is the mission of the Church, the Body of Christ, not to rule the world, nor to judge the world now, but to “lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 John 3:16.) Our Lord declares, “I came not to judge the world.” (John 12:47.) The Son of Man came to lay down his life for the world. (John 6:51; 10:15.) “My Kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36.) And so the Apostle assures us that we are not to reign now, but on the contrary to suffer with Christ, if we would reign with him by and by: that we are not to judge the world now, but on the contrary to judge nothing before the time; but he assures us that in God’s due time the saints shall judge the world, and that to the world’s blessing. He assures us that it is our mission “to fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ, for his body’s sake, which is the Church.” (Col. 1:24.) He tells us, along the same line, that while we are to do good unto all men as we have opportunity, our service is to be specially to the household of faith. Our efforts that will go toward the world of mankind in general are to be only the side-glances, as it were, the overflow of our efforts expended chiefly and directly upon the members of the body of Christ, the consecrated Church,—expended in building one another up in the most holy faith.—Rom. 8:17; 1 Cor. 4:5,6; 6:2; Gal. 6:10.
(d) Quite a goodly number of Protestant Christians theoretically take more or less of the position which we have herein stated, especially our Presbyterian and Baptist friends. But when we come to consider God’s object in thus specially dealing with the Church we find that very few indeed even of these have any comprehension of it. The general thought is that God merely wishes to elect the Church, and that he is thoroughly indifferent as respects the poor world, that for six thousand years has lain in a lost condition under the blinding influence of Satan, and deaf to the Gospel call. Here we must differ, for we find the Scriptures to teach a much more wonderful, much more just, much more benevolent, much more grand plan of God than that.
We find it to teach that this Church, now being selected or elected, is merely a first-fruit unto God of his creatures, and that a great work is to be done for the world of mankind, through this Church, after she shall have been glorified and associated with her Lord in the heavenly Kingdom. The same Scriptures which tell us that now the world is blind and deaf, and that Satan, “the prince of this world,” “the god of this age,” has directly and indirectly had much to do with this blindness, tell us also that the time is to come when all the blind eyes shall be opened, and all the deaf ears
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shall be unstopped, and when Satan, the great deceiver, shall be bound, restrained, permitted no longer to deceive humanity. These Scriptures assure us that the Church now being selected and proved, and thus made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light, is to be God’s channel of blessing to mankind; and that Head and Body, Jesus and his Church, shall constitute in the full sense the promised “Seed of Abraham,” or Spiritual Israel, through which all mankind shall be blessed with a knowledge of God’s true character, and with an opportunity for gaining eternal life in the Millennial judgment day which God has appointed.—Gal. 3:16,29.
One of the particular trials with many of the Lord’s people is that they are frequently upbraided by less consecrated, worldly-wise professors, with the suggestion that they are selfish, and neglectful of the true work of the Church, because they do not join with others in the various political, social, financial and moral reforms of the world; or in “revival” efforts to drive and scare the worldly, whom God has not “called” by the truth along Scriptural lines. If we are obliged to endure something on this score for Christ’s sake, it is only a part of “the sufferings of Christ” in which we should rejoice; realizing that the Lord knows our faithfulness to him and to his Word. We may realize, also, that in due time others shall see the divine plan actually fulfilling, as we are now permitted to see it by the eye of faith; and they will then see that the “wise virgins” were wise in that they hearkened to and obeyed the Lord’s Word, and made themselves ready for the future work of service for the world.—Rev. 19:7; Eph. 4:12.
We can sympathize with those who see nothing; we can sympathize also with those who see a little, and who strive toward moral and other reforms, and in various ways for the sectarian prosperity rather than for the upbuilding of the saints, the Church of the living God, whose names are written in heaven. We should have patience, particularly with those who give evidence that they are laboring in harmony with their convictions. If they are engaging in good works of any kind they deserve our sympathy, and undoubtedly will obtain a blessing as a result. The true Church is laboring not merely for a blessing, but for the blessing—”the prize of our high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14.) Let all, then, who see the prize, and who see the light of God’s glory shining in the face of Jesus Christ our Lord, be faithful to the Father’s terms, conditions, calling, service. Let all such give attention to this ministry (service) which we have received, and faint not; be not discouraged, whether men hear or whether they forbear, whether they think ill of us or whether they speak ill of us; let us remember that our report at the end of the trial is to be rendered to the Lord himself, when he is making up his jewels. Let us remember that the first condition of acceptance with him is loyal obedience to his Word, the
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evidence of love for him and faith in him. (2 Cor. 10:5,6.) Let us remember, also, that the second qualification he will look for in us is love for the brethren, readiness to be, to do and to suffer, to die on behalf of those who are really, truly consecrated children of God, seeking to walk in his ways.
All thus following in the ministry (the service) which we have received of God, find themselves to-day walking in the footsteps of Jesus and the apostles, and find the various predictions made respecting the entire Church applicable to its living members also, as, for instance, following our text, the Apostle declares of this class who have this ministry:—
“We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants [the Church’s servants, not the world’s servants] for Jesus’ sake. … We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, yet not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus [always representing Christ and his sacrifice as dying members of his body] that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live [as new creatures in Christ Jesus] are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake [our consecration at the beginning was a consecration to death; it changes not; it will always so continue, until we have finished our course and have actually died], that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.”—Verses 5-11.
In other words, the truly consecrated Church of Christ, all “whose names are written in heaven,” are his representative members upon the earth, throughout this Gospel age. The Head suffered eighteen hundred years ago, the members of the Body have since been suffering with him, and have been learning the same lessons of obedience to the divine will, and trust and confidence in the divine wisdom, and love for the brethren; and by and by the entire Body of Christ will have finished its course, and will have been received by the Head into his glory, and then will begin God’s great work for the world, for which all his dealings with the Church are but the divine preparation. In the Church the Lord will give to the world Kings, to rule in righteousness,—in love, instead of in selfishness and pride; but the Church will also be Priests, to bless with the knowledge of the truth, and with help out of the mire of sin, back to full harmony with God, all who desire to return to him. It will then be true, “Thou hast made us unto our God Kings and Priests: and we shall reign on the earth.”—Rev. 5:10.
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NOW HIS WILL IS MINE—1899
“Once I sought a blessing; now I’ve found my Lord;
Once I sought for feeling: now I’ve found his Word;
Once his gifts I wanted: now the Giver own;
Once I sought flesh-healing: now himself alone.
“Once it was my working: his it hence shall be;
Once I tried to use him: now he uses me;
Once the power I wanted: now the mighty One;
Once for self I labored: now for Christ alone.
“Once ’twas painful trying: now ’tis restful trust;
Once a half-salvation: now the uttermost;
Once ’twas ceaseless holding: now he holds me fast;
Once ’twas constant drifting: now my anchor’s cast.
“Once ’twas busy planning: now ’tis trustful prayer;
Once ’twas anxious caring: now he has the care;
Once ’twas what I wanted: now what Jesus says;
Once ’twas constant asking: now ’tis ceaseless praise.
“Once I hoped in Jesus: now I know he’s mine;
Once my lamps were dying: now they brightly shine;
Once for death I waited: now his presence hail,
And my hopes are anchored safe within the vail.”
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WILL COMMUNICATION BETWEEN HEAVEN AND EARTH BE RE-ESTABLISHED?
Question.—If the saints and the Lord are not visible to the world during the Millennium, how will their loved friends, who did not have the same hope of union in Christ, have fellowship with them?
Answer.—In the present life the “saints” themselves do the most of the loving: true, they also are beloved to some extent by some who are not now the Lord’s people, and not called to the high calling, but the loving of the latter is usually more of the selfish order of love, and less fervent.
The saints will be as able to love their kindred and the world in general as at present, and, we might say, more able, because of their perfected powers. Now, their chiefest love is for the Lord himself, their secondary love is for the household of faith, and as they love not the world, neither the things of the world, their love for the worldly is more of a benevolent hope—a wish for the welfare of mankind in general, and in particular of all to whom they are attached by earthly ties. The Prophet, speaking for these, declares: “I shall be satisfied when I awake in thy likeness;” with our perfected powers received in resurrection change we will comprehend the lengths and breadths, the heights and depths of the divine provision for our friends and for all men;—secured by God’s love and wisdom, through the great sacrifice of atonement finished at Calvary.
As for the worldly: they will have little difficulty generally in assuaging their sorrows. This is evident from the fact that partings caused by death so soon lose their poignancy. The chief cause of much of the grief manifested at the present time is the fear and uncertainty with which the majority of people regard the future of the present life, and of that which is to come. The latter fear is born of misinterpretations of Scripture, inspired by false human traditions. When they shall come to know that their erstwhile friends, the saints, are forever with the Lord, they will be as satisfied as we now are satisfied to think of our Lord Jesus, our best Friend, as being highly exalted and on a different plane of being from ourselves.
As for the method of communication between the glorified Church and the world undergoing the disciplines of the restitution: we need not suppose that much communication and personal attention and care for our loved ones of earth will be necessary. What would be good for one person would generally be good for all, and our Heavenly Father’s plan is so abundant in its provisions for the blessing of all that, understanding something of his character and plan, we already realize that he proposes to do for all mankind exceedingly abundantly more than all that we could have thought or asked for those we love most. So when the world has that which divine provision will make general during the Millennial age, there will be very little necessity, if any, for special interventions, or special communications by the saints to those for whom they now feel so solicitous.
And yet we can readily suppose that God has made some arrangement by which, eventually, there will be a communication between the (restored) earthly and the heavenly planes of being, as there was in Eden before sin entered,—when God either personally or through a representative talked with our first parents. Just how this communication will be established we are not informed, nor need it specially concern us, since we know that our Father is abundantly wise, and abundantly able, and abundantly loving, to do for his creatures all things needful to the comfort and happiness of those who love and obey him.
ARE GREAT SACRIFICES AND SUFFERINGS NECESSARY TO JOINT-HEIRSHIP?
Question.—What about the majority of Christians who, believing in Christ, are not yet called upon to make any great sacrifices for his sake?
Answer.—For a general answer, we refer to the article in our issue of May 1st, 1895, entitled, “Perfect Through Suffering.” Everyone who seeks to walk carefully and honestly before the Lord, in the footsteps of Jesus, will surely find that it will cause something of self-sacrifice—the sacrifice of human aims or plans or preferences.
But this question may be viewed in another light
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The questioner may mean to lay stress upon the word “great,” and may have in mind the endurance of persecutions such as came upon our Lord, the apostles, and others of the faithful in the past—imprisonments, “cruel mockings and scourgings,” and violent deaths. Our answer, from this standpoint, is that it is not for us to supervise the trials and difficulties which may beset us. It is for us to make an unreserved consecration of ourselves to the Lord, and then leave to him the decision of how great shall be our trials and besetments—how great our sacrifices in following his leadings. The Lord may see that some need special trials, more than others, and those things which to some would be great trials and imply great sacrifices, to others, because of greater love to the Lord and his cause, and greater zeal for service, the sacrifice might seem to be, as the Apostle expresses it of his own, “light afflictions, which are but for a moment, and which are working out a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” If we are doing our part faithfully—if we are faithful to the Lord and to his people, and to his truth, to the best of our knowledge and ability, God will surely oversee our affairs so that we shall have just the right experiences to develop us; just the proper opportunities of sacrifice which his wisdom sees to be appropriate and needful to us. He will leave no true son without chastisements, disciplines, neither will he forsake us in our trials, but will stand with us, so that we shall not be tempted above that we are able, having provided a way of escape.
In this enlightened day physical scourgings are not sanctioned by the world, nevertheless we may be called on to endure patiently and uncomplainingly “cruel mockings” of the tongue;—we may be imprisoned in the sense of being ostracized for the truth’s sake;—as our Lord foretold, “They shall cast you out of the synagogue and separate you from their company: yea, whosoever shall kill you shall think that he doeth God service.” Many to-day are thus imprisoned and killed in influence for the truth’s sake. Thus the Apostle also declared, “I die daily.” And all who will constitute the elect overcoming Church, must die thus. In the symbolic language of Revelation this is termed beheading, and we are assured that all who will share the First Resurrection and the Kingdom will have been thus symbolically beheaded.—Rev. 20:4.
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FOLLOW THE LAMB WHITHERSOEVER HE GOETH
—JAN. 8.—JOHN 1:35-46.—
“Behold the Lamb of God!”—John 1:36
JOHN’S mission was to bear witness to Jesus. He knew him well from his infancy to manhood, and as cousins according to the flesh they doubtless had discussed various features of the divine law, and they were of one heart as respects service to the Lord. Neither could begin a public service until thirty years of age, since this was one feature of the Law, but John being six months the elder was thus privileged to begin his ministry six months in advance of our Lord. During that brief period he had evidently made a considerable commotion as a reformer, his message being, “Repent ye, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”—Matt. 3:2.
The Jews had been waiting for the Kingdom for centuries; they realized that the Kingdom given to Saul, David, Solomon, etc., had not fulfilled the promises, and that a Kingdom in a larger sense, and under a greater than David and a greater than Solomon, was to be expected. The Apostle assures us that this thought was continually before their minds. (Acts 26:7.) John’s mission to that nation, therefore, was the announcement that the fulfilment of the divine promise was at hand, and that in order to be ready to receive the divine favor they should repent of sin and turn to the Lord. And as our Lord declared subsequently, if that nation had believed John and acted upon that belief they would have been ready to receive the Lord himself, and to have fulfilled to them all the gracious promises of the Kingdom to which they were heirs, as the natural seed of Abraham.
It was because they were not in a right condition of heart that they were not fit to have the Kingdom, the promise of which, therefore, was taken from them, to be given to a new nation, a peculiar people, a royal priesthood—which God has been selecting from amongst all peoples, kindreds and tongues, during this Gospel age, and which will now soon be completed, and be glorified, and begin the work of blessing all the families of the earth, as the Spiritual Seed of Abraham.—Gal. 3:29.
John did not preach to the people that they should believe on God, for he was addressing only the believing, covenanted people, Israel. His message was respecting things already known to them, and believed by them. He therefore exhorted merely repentance from their sins, and a return to their proper and covenanted relationship with God. In all this John’s ministry is very different from the ministry of the apostles to the Gentiles, who not only had been without knowledge respecting God’s purposes, Kingdom, etc., but also without faith or any ground of hope. As the Apostle declares, they were “without God, and having no hope in the world.” Nor did any hope reach them, nor was the Gospel message sent to them, until after Israel’s rejection in consequence of their rejection of Messiah.
“The baptism of John” was to the Jews only, and was wholly different from the baptism appointed for
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those called from amongst the Gentiles. The Apostle makes this fact very clear in Acts 19:2-5. John’s baptism was not a baptism into any thing, or into any body, whereas our baptism is a baptism into Christ, as members of his body. John’s baptism merely signified the putting away of sins, and thus to return to a condition of holiness and consecration already enjoyed. Our baptism signifies something very different from this—not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the submission of our consciences, our wills, fully and unreservedly to the will of Christ, that we should henceforth have no will of our own, but be guided entirely by the will of our Head, as members of his Body. Thus becoming dead to self-will we are reckoned alive as “new creatures,” “members in particular” of the Body of Christ.—1 Cor. 12:27.
The Jews as a nation had already been baptized into Moses (1 Cor. 10:2), the mediator of their Law Covenant, and to the Jew, Christ took the place of Moses, and his New Covenant took the place of the Law Covenant, so that any Jew, already baptized into Moses, and already thus in covenant relationship, would, by merely accepting Christ as the Messiah, the antitype of Moses, and the Mediator of the New Covenant (and, in harmony with his faith, repenting of sin), be adopted, reckoned as a member in the Body of Christ, instead of as a member of the Body of Moses. All others, however, who were of the Gentiles, and not of the natural seed of Abraham, are not to come first to Moses and the Law, and then through John’s baptism into Christ, but are to ignore the Law Covenant entirely, and avail themselves of the better covenant direct, and hence they are instructed to be baptized into Christ, by being immersed into his death, and to testify to this consecration outwardly, to their fellows and before God, by an immersion in water.*—Rom. 6:3,4.
We have no record that John the Baptist was ever immersed himself—nor would we need to have, since he evidently was a godly man, living up, to the best of his ability, to the standard of the Law Covenant. His baptism, as he himself explained, was only for sinners,—those who had been living knowingly in violation of the principles of righteousness. Hence also John objected at first to the baptism of Jesus, assuring him that he was not a sinner, and that if Jesus needed to be baptized, much more appropriate would it be that John himself should be immersed. “I have need to be baptised of thee, and comest thou to me?” But our Lord, while admitting the force of John’s argument that a baptism of repentance and remission of sins would not be appropriate in his own case, requested him to proceed with the matter anyway, intimating that he had some other reason why it was right. The fact is that our Lord’s baptism was the beginning of the Christian baptism: it symbolized the consecration which he had just made (at the first hour of manhood), his full consecration to do the Father’s will, even unto death;—the giving up of his human life, a sacrifice on behalf of the world. It required all of the Lord’s three and a half years’ ministry to complete what was there symbolized, and he said just before his crucifixion, “I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished.” (Luke 12:50.) And so with the baptism of consecration, “death,” into which we are to be baptized: as members of his Body we are to become living sacrifices, dead to the world, alive toward God, as is particularly set forth in Rom. 6:3-5.
It was in connection with our Redeemer’s symbolical baptism in water, which promptly followed his consecration to death at thirty years of age, and was the public declaration of that devotion unto death, that the Heavenly Father bore witness to his adoption to the divine nature. We are not informed that any but John witnessed the descent of the holy spirit upon him, but John bore witness that he saw the spirit thus descend, and that the Lord, in sending him to preach, had previously testified that this was to be the sign by which he would surely know the Messiah (John 1:32,33). It was in harmony with this that he declared to his disciples subsequently, as Jesus passed by, “Behold the Lamb of God.” John doubtless knew and expected that some of his disciples would cease cooperation with him, to follow the Messiah. Indeed he declared to them, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
The two who heard John’s testimony promptly followed Jesus with a view to getting as close to the fountain head of the truth as possible; and all must admit
*Our friends of the Disciple denomination wholly misunderstand this matter, and are practising John’s baptism of repentance and remission of sins, instead of the baptism of Christ. They should note the Apostle’s words and correct this matter, as he instructed others to do in his day—by a fresh baptism.—Acts 19:2-5.
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the propriety of their course. How this suggests to us our own proper course, to follow the Lord as nearly as possible, and to seek as much as possible to come into fellowship and communion with him. And the noble, self-ignoring course of John appeals to all who have the right mind upon the subject—that similarly all of the Lord’s servants should call attention to the Lord and not to themselves. Let us each bend our energies to pointing men to the Lamb of God, and not to self-seeking. And let us remember that following Jesus, in the best sense, means that we walk in his paths, strive to do as nearly as we are able what he would do to-day, taking our lessons from what he did and said personally, and from the instructions which he has left for us, through the apostles, respecting the path of fellowship in his sufferings, the path to glory and joint-heirship
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in his Kingdom. The Lord is found of all those who diligently seek him from right motives, and such are by and by to be granted full joint-heirship with him. “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.”—John 15:14.
The evangelist furnishes us the name of only one of the two who first heard John the Baptist speak of Jesus. It is possible that the Apostle John himself was the other one, and that through modesty he refrained from bringing himself into special prominence, in his own records, just as, in another place, he speaks of himself as “that disciple whom Jesus loved, who leaned on his bosom.” Modesty is a gem, wherever found, one of the graces of the spirit, which all of the Lord’s consecrated ones should seek to have largely developed and well polished.
The narrative of how Andrew found Peter and how Philip found Nathaniel (supposed to be the disciple called Bartholomew) is interesting, and shows that true devotion to the Lord is unselfish—desires to confer upon others all blessings and truths enjoyed. This is still the spirit of true discipleship: having found the great Light of the world, and having seen thereby something of the lengths and breadths, heights and depths of the divine character and plan, we are and should be anxious to serve the same favor to others. And this desire to serve the Lord, the truth and our fellows should be so strong in us as to make it impossible for us to withhold the good tidings from any selfish consideration. Indeed, if we have the spirit of the Lord, which is the spirit of the truth, the spirit of true discipleship, we will be so anxious to make known the good tidings as to be willing to “lay down our lives for the brethren,”—to help them “out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
It will be noticed that these who found the Lord were full of faith respecting the Messiah, of whom Moses wrote in the first five books of the Old Testament, called the Law, and of whom all the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the reputed son of Joseph. They had not yet learned that Joseph was not the father of Jesus.
Nathaniel’s answer, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” reminds us of the prejudice which now exists respecting certain quarters from which good things may or may not be expected. For instance, some of our English friends tell us that when the present truth was first brought to their attention they were inclined to disregard it, and consider it unworthy of special investigation, simply because it came from America; for tho they might expect many useful things to come from America, the product of “Yankee skill,” they had no expectation whatever that any new light upon the Scriptures would come from America, where they seemed to imagine everyone given over to cheating and muck-raking for wealth, and that consequently it would be one of the last places in Christendom in which the Lord would cause the harvest light to shine out for the blessing of his people. This undoubtedly has hindered many foreigners from investigating the truths which are now meat in due season for the household of faith. America is Nazareth with them, and they expect nothing of the kind from this quarter.
Similarly, others will inquire, What denomination backs up these religious teachings? and when told that no sect or party has endorsed these things, and that not many great, or rich, or wise, have in any sense of the word become interested, they say to themselves, if not to others, What could you expect?—Can any good come out of Nazareth? Nevertheless, all who are of the Nathaniel type of character, “Israelites indeed, in whom is no guile,” will find sufficient reason for investigating, and on investigation will find sufficient proofs to satisfy them,—”as nothing else would do.” Our answer to all such objections should be that of Philip, “Come and see,”—test, examine, prove for yourself.
Another lesson here, that should prove of value, is found in the words respecting Andrew, “He first findeth his own brother Simon.” So all who find the Lord, and who are anxious to make him known to others, should similarly begin in their own households, with their own brothers and sisters, father or mother, or husband or wife. There is frequently a diffidence about mentioning the Lord and the truth to those who are of the family and home circle which is surely much out of place. True love for our kin should lead us to make an extra and special effort on their behalf.
In conclusion let us remember that those who follow the Lamb through evil as well as through good report—those who follow his teachings and example—are they who ultimately shall be with him and share his glory as members of his elect Zion.—Rev. 14:4.
* * *
“Caesar’s friends? or friends of Jesus?
Solemn question for to-day!
Friends of Caesar! Friends of Jesus!
Take your sides without delay.
If ye pause for man’s forbidding,
Caesar’s friendship ye secure;
If ye do the Father’s bidding,
Scorn, reproach, ye shall endure.
“Free from Caesar, friends of Jesus!
Stand in phalanx! never fear!
Love, severely tried, increases;
Courage yet! the Lord is near!
Onward still, his name confessing,
Weaving crowns to grace his brow;
Lo! his hands are full of blessing,
Lifted for your succor now.”
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WATER TURNED INTO WINE
—JAN. 15.—JOHN 2:1-11.—
“And his disciples believed on him.”—John 2:11
THE third day from the calling of Nathaniel to discipleship found our Lord and his disciples invited guests at a wedding, in Cana. Cana was near to Nazareth, for many years the home of Jesus, and quite probably those who invited him, his mother and his disciples were either relatives or old acquaintances. This is implied in the fact that Jesus’ mother knew when the wine was exhausted; a matter which rather implied scarcity of provision, and which would be carefully kept from the knowledge of outsiders who might be guests. It is also implied in the statement that Mary gave commands to the servants to do whatsoever Jesus should direct, a matter which would have been quite improper in an ordinary guest.
The fact that our Lord was willing to attend the wedding implies a sympathy with the marriage institution. Indeed, we know that God himself instituted marriage as between our first parents, and we have the Apostle Paul’s inspired explanation that this union between man and woman which God approved was designed to be an illustration of the union between Christ, the heavenly Bridegroom, and the Church, his Bride.—Eph. 5:22-28.
Jesus’ mother seems to have had some intimation of his power to help the friends out of the difficulty and ignominy of a feast in progress and the supplies run short: and yet she could not have known of the Lord’s power to turn water into wine from any previous experiences during the thirty years of her acquaintance with him; for, contrary to all apocryphal stories, the boy Jesus did no miracles, nor did the young man Jesus do miracles, but, as here declared, the miracle at Cana was the beginning of his miracles. Nevertheless, his mother had considerable confidence of some sort, else she would not have instructed the servants to give heed to anything Jesus might command.
Our Lord’s reply to his mother has rather the appearance of rudeness, but we may be sure that this was not the case. The sense of the Lord’s words would seem to be to call his mother’s attention to the fact that while he had, in every sense of the word, been a dutiful son for thirty years, he had now reached the period of manhood, according to the Law, and was now devoted, consecrated, to the Lord. No doubt he and his mother had talked the matter over previously, and he was thus reminding her that his life being consecrated now she could not expect him to be under her direction to the same extent as formerly—the time had fully come that he must now be about his Father’s business.
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The six water-pots mentioned as for purifying were probably intended for the use of the guests for washing their hands. Washing of hands had become an important part of the Jewish observance, and “unless they washed oft they ate not.” (Mark 7:3.) We nowhere find these washings and waterpots referred to in the Law. They were, therefore, probably part of the tradition of the elders, to which our Lord so frequently referred as taking the place of the Law of God. These water-pots had handles, permitting them to be tipped over, so as to pour water upon the hands of those who washed, and the six held about one hundred and twenty gallons of water for the supply of the many guests. Our Lord made use of these water-pots in the performance of his miracle for two reasons: (1) Such vessels were probably rarely or never used for wine, so there could be no misunderstanding of his miracle. (2) He probably intended a symbolical lesson in their use; for we are expressly told that this miracle was a manifestation of his glory beforehand (vs. 11)—a manifestation of his work in the Kingdom. Water is a symbol of truth, both as respects its cleansing properties and also as respects its refreshment, one of the necessities of life, from which thought we have the expression, “water of life.” Thus during the Millennial age the servants of the truth will fill up all of mankind who are suitable vessels, and all thus filled with the truth, and brought into harmony with it, under our Lord’s direction, shall then, by supernatural power, find the truth transformed in them into the wine of joy—a joy superior to any other joy, as the wine in the miracle was superior to any other wine.
It cannot be claimed for our Lord Jesus that he was a total abstainer from alcoholic liquors, and the claim made by some that the word “wine” here mentioned signifies a non-intoxicating wine, is not true. It can, however, be said on the other side of the question, that many of the wines of that vicinity and time contained much less alcohol than do many of the wines of to-day. It may also be noted that changes have taken place in humanity, so that the inhabitants, particularly of the temperate zone, are more highly nervous than those of any other time. Hence, with stronger wines and with weaker nerves, there is a largely increased tendency to excess and to injury. It is our opinion, therefore, that if the Lord were living where we do, and now, he would be a total abstainer from alcoholic liquors, not only on his own account, but also as an example for others.
This miracle was evidently not only designed to establish faith in our Lord by his disciples, and amongst the people in the vicinity of his home, but also, as already suggested, was particularly designed to manifest in advance the still future glory of Messiah’s great work.