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VOL. XX. APRIL 1, 1899. No. 7
Blessing God and Cursing Men…………………. 67
Christians Who Curse Men with Their Tongue…….. 68
Poem: “Lo, I Am with Thee!”………………….. 76
“A Bottle of Spikenard, Very Costly”………….. 76
“I Have Given You an Example”………………… 78
Tabernacle Shadows………………………….. 66
The Memorial Supper at Allegheny……………… 66
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THE MEMORIAL SUPPER AT ALLEGHENY
Our journal is just ready for press, but we hold it to say,—that the Memorial service here on March 26th was one of the most refreshing ever celebrated by us. We felt that the Lord poured out a blessing upon our uplifted hearts, while they burned with fervent love for our dear Redeemer and for all his “brethren”—who were remembered in our prayers feelingly: we knew, too, that we had the love and prayers of many of the Lord’s “little flock” in every quarter of the world. Fourteen witnessed to their consecration by symbolic baptism in the afternoon; and in the evening about two hundred and fifty partook of the emblems of our Lord’s broken body and shed blood and pledged themselves afresh to follow in his footsteps and “lay down our lives for the brethren.”
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BLESSING GOD AND CURSING MEN
“But the tongue can no man tame: it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father, and therewith curse we men which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.”—James 3:8-10.
THESE words of the inspired Apostle are addressed to the “brethren”—not to the world. Indeed, the entire Epistle is addressed to the Church: the fact that in opening it James addresses “the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad,” is not to the contrary of this. We are to remember that to the twelve tribes of Israel, the natural seed of Abraham, pertained originally the great promise of God made to Abraham. By natural heredity, then, God’s offer or proposition to bless the world belonged to fleshly Israel, as the divine instruments, if they would comply with the divine conditions. But one of the divine conditions was that they should have the faith of Abraham, and should not be considered the promised seed of Abraham without that faith, since Abraham was to be the Father of the Faithful. Our Lord and the apostles, in the New Testament, set forth clearly how and why natural Israel, as a nation, was broken off from inheritance under that covenant: the Apostle representing the promise as an olive root, describes all Israelites as branches, growing up out of that root, and tells us that many of the natural branches were broken off, the vast majority, and that only a remnant at the first advent were found possessed of the faith of Abraham, and accepted by our Lord as members of the new house of sons.—John 1:12.
The Apostle further explains that the rejection of the unbelieving of natural Israel left the way open to engraft in the place of the broken-off branches some from amongst the Gentiles, possessed of the faith of Abraham. And this, we see, has been the work of this Gospel age,—grafting into the original root of promise believers from amongst the Gentiles, who were once without God and having no hope in the world, strangers from the commonwealth of Israel, but are now brought nigh, united with Christ, and through him united with the Abrahamic root of promise, and inheritors of all its richness and fatness.—Eph. 2:12,13; Rom. 11.
Thus we see that these spiritual Israelites become the Israelites indeed, from the divine standpoint, the actual inheritors of the Abrahamic promise: altho we see also yet to be fulfilled certain gracious earthly promises to the natural seed of Abraham, they nevertheless have missed, have lost, as a nation, as a people, the great prize: as the Apostle declares, “Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for: but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.”—Rom. 11:7.
So then the “twelve tribes” of Israel had promises made to them which apply not merely to themselves, but also and specially to Spiritual Israel, whom they typified; while the original election or predestination of God, respecting the Abrahamic seed, that it should be 144,000, or 12,000 from each tribe, still stands; and consequently that each one accepted from amongst the Gentiles, and engrafted into this root of Abrahamic promise, is counted as taking the place of one of these broken-off branches of the various tribes. By the time the Gospel age shall have finished its work, a Spiritual Israel will have been found—”a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people,”—showing forth the praises of him who called them out of darkness into his marvelous light—neither one more nor one less
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than the original, elect, predetermined number,—a natural Israelite having been “broken off” for each one from the Gentiles “grafted in.” The Church is thus referred to in Revelation 7:3-8: and the sealing of the
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Church is spoken of as being so many from each of the tribes, with the intimation that all of these will have been “sealed in their foreheads” before the great time of trouble shall come upon the world.
So, then, the Epistle of James is to be understood as addressed to these true Israelites, engrafted into the root of promise, and taking the place of the natural Israelites. And to this agree the words of the Apostle Paul, “They are not all Israel which are of Israel.” (Rom. 9:6,7.) And again, “He is not a Jew which is a Jew outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew which is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart.” (Rom. 2:28,29.) And again, the words of our Lord in addressing his Church: “I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are of the synagogue of Satan.”—Rev. 2:9; 3:9.
Our Lord recognized this same distinction between natural and true Israelites: when receiving Nathaniel he declared, “Behold, an Israelite indeed.” These two Israels, of the flesh and of the spirit, were typified in Isaac and Ishmael, and again, as the Apostle declares, in Jacob and Esau. (Rom. 9:8-13,22-33.) In each case the inheritor of the promise was the younger brother; as illustrating that Spiritual Israel would be developed after natural Israel, and take its place as heir of the chief blessings mentioned in the Abrahamic Covenant. However, we are to remember that a blessing was granted also in each case to the elder brother, in the types; and so it is in the antitypes,—while God has appointed Christ to be the heir of all things, and has called the Church as his Bride, to be his joint-heir in all things, he has nevertheless provided that blessing shall flow from these to the earthly seed, and in turn through the latter to all the families of the earth.—Rom. 11:26-33.
Having thus definitely determined that the holy spirit, through the Apostle, is addressing the Church, let us consider the astounding statement of our text, and seek to ascertain in what sense it should be understood; resolving that, should we find that in any sense or degree it applies to us individually, we will assuredly quickly respond to the spirit’s teaching, and correct so evil a condition.
BLESSING GOD WITH THE TONGUE
We may readily see how the Apostle means that God’s people bless or praise his name with their tongues. They do so in prayer; they do so in their hymns of praise; they do so in declaring his truth, and in witnessing to his providences on their behalf. In a word, we bless God with our tongues by showing forth his praises, who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.
CHRISTIANS WHO CURSE MEN WITH THEIR TONGUES
But in what sense does the Apostle mean that Spiritual Israelites curse men with their tongues?—and that so commonly, so generally prevalent as to require public reproof? Surely no Christian curses his fellowman by oaths and profane swearing! But are there not other ways in which our tongues may be a curse and an injury to fellow-men? We are to remember that the meaning of our English word “curse” has somewhat altered in common usage within the last century, having very generally lost the sense of injury and assumed wholly the sense of swearing, profanity. In the Greek language different words are used when referring to a cursing oath (viz., anathema, and anathematiso, used ten times in the New Testament), and when referring to a spoken condemnation as a blight or curse (viz., katara and kataraomai, which signify condemnation,—to speak against, to speak evil of, to injure). The latter is the word used by the Apostle James: hence his language really is—With the same tongue wherewith we praise and honor God, we do injury to fellow-men, by evil-speaking, slandering, etc. Thus our Lord, using the same word, said, “Bless them that curse [speak evil of] you.” The Apostle Paul, using the same word, admonishes God’s people to “Bless and curse not”—speak favorably of others, but do not speak injuriously of them. Again, we are told that our Lord cursed (the same Greek word) the figtree, saying, “Let no fruit grow on thee henceforth”—he injured it, he made a declaration unfavorable to its future development. Thus also the Apostle declares that the Jews under the Law were under a curse—not that the Law was evil, but that, because of imperfections of the flesh, the Israelites came under the condemnation (curse) of the Law. He declares also that “Christ hath redeemed us [formerly Jews] from the curse [condemnation] of the Law, being made a curse for us”—having suffered for us the full condemnation or blight which the Law imposed upon the transgressor. (Gal. 3:10-13.) He illustrated the same thought in connection with the word “curse,” when he declares that garden land which had been overgrown with thorns and briars is “nigh unto cursing”—not ready for profanity, but for condemnation, as unfit for tillage, until burned over and its weeds exterminated.—Matt. 5:44; Rom. 12:14; Mark 11:21; Heb. 6:8.
Having thus before our minds the real word, and its signification as used by the Apostle, we see that while curse is a proper enough translation of the original, the whole difficulty is that present-day common usage and common education have largely hidden from sight this signification of the word. (Similarly the word evil has lost its original breadth of meaning, and
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is almost invariably considered to signify immorality, badness, wickedness; whereas in its breadth of meaning it may be used to refer to anything that is undesirable, not good, such as calamities, etc.)
Looking at the Apostle’s statement from this stand-point, we see clearly that his charge is applicable to Christian people of to-day to an alarming extent. How many there are who do injury with their tongues to their fellow-creatures, who use the same tongue in offering praise to God. We know of no evil to which God’s consecrated people are more exposed than to this one. With many it is as natural to gossip as to breathe: they do it unconsciously. We have even known people who took cognizance of the Scriptural injunction against slander and evil-speaking, who were so utterly confused on the subject, and so unaware of their own conduct, that they would declare their horror of speaking a slander in the very same breath in which they utter slanders. We mention this in proof that this evil is so ingrained in fallen human nature as to elude the notice of the new nature sometimes for years—and thus escapes the correction in righteousness which the Lord’s Word directs, and which all who are truly the Lord’s people desire.
Many are the peculiar subterfuges which the fallen nature will use, in its attempt to stifle the voice of conscience and yet maintain the use of this channel of evil,—long after it has been driven from evil practices which are less common, less popular, more generally recognized as sinful.
(1) It will say, I mean no harm to anybody; but I must have something to talk about, and nothing would be so interesting to friends and neighbors as something which has more or less of a gossipy flavor (scandal) connected with it. But is evil-speaking, slander, any the more proper on this account for the children of the light? By no means. Hence it is that the Scriptures instruct us, “Let your conversation be such as becometh saints;” “Let your speech be with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man;” “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good, to the use of edifying,—that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”—Phil. 1:27; Col. 4:6; Eph. 4:29.
But the scandal-monger, however refined his methods and words, well knows that so far from the scandal ministering grace to the hearer, it ministers evil;—that the hearer is impelled by the forces of his fallen human nature to go quickly and tell the scandal further, to others;—true or false, he knows not and heeds not: it has kindled in his heart a flame of carnal sentiment which issues from his lips to “set on fire the course of nature” in others, similarly weak through the fall. The fallen nature feasts and revels in just such things, feeling the more liberty to do so because they delude themselves that thus they are moralizing—preaching against sin, and that in thus discussing and impliedly denouncing the said-to-be transgressions of another, they are mentioning matters abhorrent to their righteous souls. Alas! poor, weak, fallen humanity’s reasonings are seriously defective when the Lord’s counsels in righteousness are ignored.
As for the point that there would be little else to talk about if scandals were thoroughly eliminated from Christian conversation, and were all to abide strictly by the Apostle’s injunction, “Speak evil of no man,” we answer: Is there not a wide scope for conversation amongst Christian people, on the subject of the riches of God’s grace in Christ Jesus our Lord, expressed in the exceeding great and precious promises of the divine Word? In these things we have indeed that which not only ministers grace to the hearer, but which adds also to the grace of the speaker. It showers blessing on every hand, so far as the “new creature” is concerned, and assists in deadening the old nature with its evil desires, tastes, appetites.
This is what the Apostle had in mind, evidently, when he said that the Lord’s people should “show forth the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.” And a heart filled with the
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spirit of love, the spirit of God, the spirit of the truth, and overflowing with the same at the mouth will be sure to overflow that which is within, for, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” An evil mouth, therefore, a mouth which does injury to others, either to fellow-members of “the body of Christ” or to those that are without, indicates an evil heart,—implies that the heart is not pure. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”—1 Pet. 2:9; Matt. 12:34; 5:8.
(2) Another excuse for gossip about other men’s matters is offered by others, who say: I can talk about religious matters to those who are religiously inclined, but when I am with worldly people, or with professors of religion who take no interest in religious themes, I must be agreeable and accommodating, and must at least hear their gossip and news; and if I do not share in such conversation I would be considered very peculiar, and my company would not be desired. Yes, we answer; but this is to be one of the peculiarities of the “saints:” they are not only to be different from the world, but different also from the nominal professors of religion. Their religion is not merely to be on the surface, and on one day of the week, and under a certain suit of clothes; but is to be of the heart, related to all the affairs of life, for every day and every moment. To follow strictly the divine injunction will indeed separate you from some who are now your friends
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and who love such evil things,—forbidden us who have become sons of God and who have received of his spirit of sonship, the spirit of Love.
And that the Lord understood and meant this is evident from the fact that he foretold to us that the way of discipleship would be a “narrow way.” If, therefore, your failure to be an entertaining visitor, neighbor, friend, is because of your fidelity as a “new creature” to the law of Christ, Love—which “worketh no ill to his neighbor,” either in word or deed,—then indeed you have cause for rejoicing, because you are suffering a little, experiencing a loss, for Christ’s sake, for righteousness’ sake. The loss may at first seem heavy, but if you endure it for Christ’s sake, in obedience to his righteous law of Love, you will soon be able to say with the Apostle that such losses are “light afflictions,” not worthy to be compared with the offsetting blessings.—Phil. 3:7,8; 2 Cor. 4:17.
Your cause for rejoicing is that you have the Lord’s promise that such suffering shall work out for your good. Companionship with those who are not seeking to walk according to the mind of the spirit, but according to the common “course of this world,” is injurious to the saints, to those who are seeking to walk in harmony with the new mind. They are far better off without such worldly companions and friends, and in proportion as they are separated from these will they find closer fellowship with the Lord himself and with his Word, and with all who are true members of his Body, and under the direction of his spirit. It is in harmony with this that the Scriptures declare, in so many words, that the friendship of this world signifies enmity against God. (Jas. 4:4.) God has purposely placed the matter in such a position that his people must take their choice, and lose either the divine friendship and fellowship, or the worldly friendship and fellowship; because those things which the Lord loves are distasteful to the worldly, and those things which the worldly love, evil deeds and evil thoughts, evil-speaking, are an abomination in the sight of the Lord, and those who love and practice such things lose his fellowship—they are not of his spirit. “If any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”—Rom. 8:9.
(3) Another way by which some otherwise good Christian people avoid this question, and justify themselves in this common fault of humanity, is by confining themselves (as they think) to the truth: tho how frequently their gossip-loving natures pervert their judgments and lead them to accept as truth things respecting which they have little or no knowledge, they never know. Nor are such anxious to know more, after they have circulated a slander with their stamp of verity on it: to find it untrue would prove them “false witnesses” and put them to trouble to correct the lie; the pride of the natural mind objects and refuses to believe the truth under such circumstances. Thus one evil leads to another.
Such will say,—Oh, I never tell anything for truth until I positively know it to be true—of my own observation, my own personal knowledge. Anything that I do not know of myself to be true I am always careful to so state, and say, I have heard thus and so, or, I am told thus and so; I do not vouch for the truth of it myself. Thus I am sure that I always avoid speaking evil of anyone. Perhaps there is no more common delusion on this subject than is thus expressed. The depraved taste hedges itself behind conscience, and declares that it is always right to speak the truth, and hence God cannot have meant that speaking the truth would be slander, but that in condemning evil speaking and slander, as works of the flesh and the devil, he must have meant the speaking of that which is false, untrue.
This is a great mistake: a slander is equally a slander, whether it is true or whether it is false, and is so regarded, not only in the law of God, but also in the laws of civilized men. True, in human law, if a suit were brought for slander, if it were proven that the charges made by the slanderer had some basis of fact, that would probably be considered by the Court and jury an extenuating circumstance, and would probably very much reduce the amount of the verdict for damages. A slander is anything which is uttered with the intention of injury to another, whether true or false, and the laws of men agree with the law of God, that such injury to another is wrong.
In other words, divine and human laws agree that a first wrong does not justify a second wrong. Human law says, If a wrong has been committed, the Courts are open to the injured one to seek redress or the punishment of the evil doer; but the injured one shall not be permitted to take the remedy into his own hands, either by making an assault with physical force nor by the use of the more subtle weapon, the tongue, to assassinate his character with the poisoned stiletto of envy and malice. True, many slanderers are never prosecuted; true also, the newspapers of the United States have sometimes escaped heavy damages for libelous slander by the plea that they did not publish the defamations as of malice, but simply as news, which, they claimed, properly belonged to the public as in the cases of politicians who were seeking the franchises of the people for positions of public trust. Then again, public men knowing that much of the false statements by the opposition press will be properly credited as falsehoods, consider it good policy to let any ordinary slanders go unchallenged in the Courts.
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The effect is a gradual growth of slander among the people—sure to work evil to themselves and to their institutions;—for government officers and courts and everybody of influence coming under such slanders (generally, we believe, untrue) lose their influence for good over the lower classes, who are thus being helped along to greater lawlessness day by day, and preparing for the period of anarchy which the Scriptures tell us is near at hand.
But the Law of God, the Law of Christ, goes much further and deeper into such matters, naturally, than do the laws of men; for it deals not with men, but with the “new creatures in Christ Jesus”—transformed by the renewing of their minds, and under special New Covenant relationship, and bound by the law of that New Covenant—Love—which “worketh no ill to his neighbor,” under any circumstances, under any provocation: which on the contrary returns “good for evil”—”blessing for cursing.”
The Law of the New Covenant, Love, commands silence to all who acknowledge that law and the Law-Giver, saying, “Speak evil of no man.” (Titus 3:2.) It goes further than this and declares against evil thoughts, evil suspicions, evil surmisings, against neighbors. It declares that love filling our hearts will not only hinder evil conduct and injurious words, but will prevent evil thoughts: “Love thinketh no evil,”—can only be convinced of evil by indisputable proofs. Indeed, to impress this subject and its importance in his sight, the Great Teacher declares to the pupils in his school—With what judgment ye judge others, I will judge you. (Matt. 7:1.) And again he tells them to pray to the Father—”Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” (Matt. 6:12.) Again he declares, If at heart ye treasure up resentment against others, the Heavenly Father will not forgive you. (Matt. 18:35.) Ah! indeed, a Christian after the Lord’s pattern, a graduate of the school of Christ and prepared to teach others, is one who not only outwardly, but inwardly also, is clean—separated, washed by the water of divine instruction, from the meanness, the filthiness of the flesh. He is no longer the slave of sin, controlled by the desires and weaknesses of his fallen flesh and its spirit of the world, bearing fruits unto unrighteousness,—anger, malice, hatred, strife, slander, evil-speaking. (Col. 3:8; 1 Pet. 2:1,2.) From his high standpoint of appreciation of the divine law, the advanced Christian sees that in the Lord’s sight hatred is murder, slander is assassination, and the destruction of a neighbor’s good name is robbery and rapine. And any of these things done in the Church, among the professed people of God, is doubly evil—the assassination and robbery of a brother.—Compare 1 John 3:15 and Matt. 5:21,22.
To utter a defamatory or injurious remark against another, and then to add, “I do not know whether it is true or not,” is to show that the speaker is exercised
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by an evil spirit and not by the spirit of Christ, the spirit of love;—he wishes to injure or curse his fellow-creature, is anxious to do so. He would feel restrained to some extent from telling what he knew to be absolutely untrue, but he delights to speak evil, and glad to know of evil that he may roll it as a sweet morsel over his tongue, and hence speaks of even those scandals which he does not know to be true, and attempts to excuse himself with such an apology as the above. Verily, it is with force that the Scriptures declare that the natural heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Those who thus speak, and thus attempt to justify their misconduct, have either never entered the school of Christ, or are as yet only in the infant-class, and do not know that theirs is the spirit of murder, and not the spirit of brotherly-love. Oh! that all true Christians might learn the scope of this law of Love, in its relationship not only to God, but also to fellow-men; what a bridling of tongues it would mean, what a carefulness of speech! As David said, “I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue.” And he who watches his tongue is putting a detective upon his deceitful heart and can the better know it and master it, for “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”—Jer. 17:9; Psa. 39:1; Matt. 12:34.
The only exception to this rule, “Speak evil of no man,” would come in where we might know of an absolute necessity for making known an evil—where the relating of the evil would be contrary to our heart’s wishes, and only mentioned because of necessity—because of love for others who, if not informed, might be injured. For instance, the law of the land demands that, if we know of murder having been committed, it shall not be considered slander, but on the contrary be considered duty, to make known to the proper officers of the law the facts (not suspicions) which have come under our observation. Likewise, if we knew of some weakness in a brother or sister, and realized that they were about to be placed in a dangerous position, because of some other brother or sister not knowing of that weakness, it might become our duty to make known, either to the individual or congregation liable to be injured, so much of our knowledge of facts (not suspicions) as might be necessary to guard them against injury through the weakness mentioned. But this would not be speaking evil, but, on the contrary, would be speaking with a good motive, with the intention of preserving the one party from extraordinary temptation, and of preserving the other party from injury. And before anything should be said on the subject we should most positively satisfy our own consciences that
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our motive in speaking is a good one, and not an evil one, that we are about to use our tongue to bless, and not to injure. And even then, prompted by the spirit of love and kindness toward the weak brother, as well as toward the others, we should avoid mentioning one solitary item that would not be necessary to the object in view.
But some will object to limiting this liberty to cases of positive knowledge, and urge that absolute knowledge generally being small little could be said. We answer that this is in line with the Divine law,—”Love thy neighbor as thyself.” You would not want your neighbor to use brain and tongue in evil surmises and slanders against you; and you should not do so to him. The law of the land does not demand that you should tell one word more than you know (of personal knowledge) against your neighbor—it does not ask your suspicions and evil surmisings. And on the contrary, the law of the Lord commands that all under the New Covenant shall not utter one solitary suspicion against a neighbor: and that if suspicion beyond knowledge is forced upon the mind by associated circumstances, the new mind shall promptly, with its native benevolence, counterbalance the suspicions by suggestions of the possibility of misinformation or misinterpretation and always give the apparently guilty the benefit of the doubt.
Another will object,—Oh! I could never waste so much time in getting at facts. Life is too short! Why, I would have no time at all left for my own business, if I carefully hunted up the facts so as always to speak from knowledge and never from hearsay!
Just so! and the lesson to you should be to follow the Scriptural rule—”Speak evil of no man.”
(1) Because you have not the time to get at the facts, and quite probably also lack the ability to judge impartially, if you had all the facts before you.
(2) Because, if you have the spirit of Christ, love, dwelling in you richly, you will prefer to tell no one the facts, even if you have the chain of evidence complete: you will loathe the matter the more in proportion as the known facts are unfavorable. What, then, must be the condition of those who have itching ears for scandals and of those whose tongues delight in scandal as a sweet morsel, and are anxious to scatter an evil report of which they have no knowledge—only prejudiced hearsay? The most generous view possible of such is that they have little of the spirit of Christ;—that they are deficient in brotherly love and have never truly learned “the golden rule.”
The Apostle inquires, “Doth a fountain send forth at the same opening bitter water and sweet?” The form of his question implies the answer, No; it is either good water only or brackish water only. He evidently wishes to suggest that we apply the same rule to our hearts and mouths: How is it possible if our hearts have been renewed that our mouths utter loving sweetness to God and bitter acrimony, envy, hatred, strife, towards or respecting our fellow-men?
There is but one way of understanding this, and accounting for it Scripturally. It is expressed by the Apostle Paul (2 Cor. 4:7): “We have this treasure [the new heart—the new nature] in an earthen vessel.” Not that Christians are of two natures, for that thought is contrary to the science of the Bible. No mixture of natures can be recognized, hence it was that our human natures were first justified through faith and a renouncement of sin, and secondly were consecrated or sacrificed to death, that instead we might have spiritual natures and become “new creatures in Christ Jesus.” The new creature, however, is as yet only in embryo, only the new mind which dwells in and proposes to regulate and govern the mortal bodies, which are reckoned dead so far as the will of the flesh is concerned.
Hence, every Christian may properly use the language of the Apostle, and speak of and think of himself and of other Christians from two different standpoints—the new mind (the new creature) reckoned alive and given control, and the old mind (the old creature) reckoned dead, and deposed from control. But as the new mind is only living a reckoned existence by faith, so the old mind is only dead in a reckoned sense through faith. And as the Apostle declares, these two are contrary the one to the other. There cannot be spiritual progress if the reign is divided. Hence, the new mind which is to us the “treasure,” begotten of the spirit of the Lord, through the word of truth, is to keep the old or natural mind, will, or disposition, tastes and appetites, dead; that the new mind may thoroughly and completely control and exercise these mortal bodies, in works and words and thoughts in harmony with the new mind, in harmony with the new law of love, in harmony with the spirit of righteousness and truth.
When, therefore, our mouths are speaking forth heart-felt praise to God, who hath blessed us, lifted our feet from the horrible pit, and the miry clay, and placed us upon the Rock, Christ Jesus, and has put a new song into our mouth, our praise implies that the new mind is controlling at such a time, that the treasure in the new heart is overflowing in the mortal body, and going forth through the lips to the praise and edification, the comfort and encouragement, of those who hear. Thus the fountain in our heart is sending forth sweet waters, carrying with them life, blessing, refreshment. But when our tongues speak evil of any, whether it be true or false, it implies that the new nature
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is, temporarily at least, overcome by the old nature; it implies that another fountain is now operating and using the tongue, the mouth, in issuing forth the words of malice or hatred or envy or strife or reproach or evil speaking of any kind,—cursing or injuring others in any degree, great or small. This implies that the old nature, the old will, the will of the flesh, is not being kept under, as the Apostle Paul expresses it,—kept dead, kept buried, kept out of sight: there is either a truce between the new mind and the old mind, by which the two use the mortal body between them, sometimes for good and sometimes for evil, or a stupor and lethargy has come over the new mind, which is taken advantage of by the mind of the flesh. Such a condition therefore implies slow spiritual development or retrogression—falling away on the part of the “new creature.” All such should remember, as the Apostle Paul declares, “The time past of our lives sufficeth us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles,” and again he says, “Yield not your members as instruments of unrighteousness; but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.”—1 Pet. 4:3; Rom. 6:13.
From this point of view we may console ourselves if in looking backward, we perceive that in our own cases from the same mouth has proceeded praise to God and injury and defamation and slander and evil-speaking and malice and hatred and strife, or any of these, toward our fellow-creatures. It does not, therefore, prove that our hearts were not truly justified, and sanctified by the holy spirit of adoption;—it does not prove that we are not sons of God and partakers of his spirit. It does prove, however, that we are in
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a sadly improper condition—spiritually sick and in need of taking a purgative, as the Apostle expresses it, saying, “Purge out, therefore, the old leaven [malice, etc.], that ye may be a new [unadulterated, pure] lump” or loaf,—proper representatives of the Body of Christ.—1 Cor. 5:7.
We may know assuredly that, until the “new creature” gains a thorough victory over the will of the flesh, we will not be winners of the great prize which is promised only “to him that overcometh.” The overcoming, however, will be not in the perfecting of the flesh, but in the perfecting of the heart,—the will, the intentions. As for the blemishes of the flesh, some of them, undoubtedly, despite every effort on our part to eradicate them, will continue with us so long as we are in the flesh. The perfection which is to be hoped for, and aimed at and expected and gained by the overcomers, is the perfection of the will, heart, intentions. “Blessed are the pure in heart; they shall see God.” Moreover, our physical weaknesses and defects not only vary in kind but in intensity. Some are by nature more inclined to gentleness, kindness, etc.; others, until accepted of Christ, may have very uncouth, coarse, rude, rough earthen vessels: and while the influence of the treasure within, the “new mind,” will be sure in any case to exercise a modifying and transforming effect upon the earthen vessel, we cannot expect as much of a change in some as in others. We cannot expect as complete a correction in righteousness in the outward man where coarseness, rudeness, unkindness are, so to speak, bred in the bone and fibre, as we might expect in one born to fine sensibilities.
While recognizing this difference of “earthen vessels,” we of course must use our best endeavors each to correct his own. We are to remember that our relationship to one another in the Body of Christ is not according to the flesh, but according to the spirit; hence, as the Apostle declares, we know one another no longer according to the flesh, with its weaknesses, imperfections and ungainly and ungraceful natural tendencies. We know each other only according to the spirit, according to the intentions, according to the heart,—as “new creatures,” not as old creatures. (2 Cor. 5:16.) This will lead us to be very pitiful of one another’s imperfections of the flesh, so long as we have the assurance that the flesh does not represent our brother’s real self, his mind, his will. We are, therefore, to be gentle toward all, kindly affectioned one toward another, so that so far from desiring to wound one another, or to injure one another, or to devour one another with our tongues, we shall sympathize with each other, do each other good, and by words of grace and comfort, or of admonition and reproof spoken in love, may build one another up in the most holy faith—in the likeness of our Lord and Master.
Proceeding with this subject, the Apostle points out that there are two kinds of wisdom, a heavenly and an earthly, and that all of the Lord’s people should discern these, and should see to it that theirs is the heavenly. The Apostle’s intimation is that there may be some with the Church, who may have counted themselves in the Church, who may have associated themselves with the Church from worldlywise motives—some who have caught sight of the fact that there is a reasonableness and a wisdom in the teachings of the Scriptures, which they admire and which they can turn perhaps to their own advantage. These, he implies, will be inclined to be heady and to make a show of their wisdom, and to be “puffed up” by it, and while outwardly acknowledging the propriety of the Christian graces, brotherly-kindness, gentleness, meekness, patience, love, they have in their hearts bitter envyings and strife—strife to have name and fame—envying
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those who may seem to them to have more of these.
These, the Apostle intimates, will find it difficult, yea, impossible, to avoid cursing (speaking evil of, injuring) the brethren. It will be so natural to them to do so that they cannot avoid it, because they have not pure hearts—they have not regenerated hearts. If their hearts ever were regenerated, they have returned like the sow to wallowing in the mire—like the dog to his vomit. The Apostle’s advice to such as find that they have in their hearts envious and bitter feelings, is that they have no cause to glory or to boast, but on the contrary should acknowledge that, having these evil conditions in the heart, they are not Christians at all, and they should cease to lie against the truth—cease to act fraudulently, hypocritically—cease to continue to claim to have renewed hearts, sanctified in Christ Jesus.
He tells such plainly that their wisdom, their knowledge, is not of God, is not of the holy spirit,—”This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish; for, where envy and strife are, there is confusion and every evil work [to be anticipated].”—Jas. 3:15,16.
It seems evident that, altho the Apostle’s denunciation applies to any professing to be Israelites indeed, he nevertheless is specially aiming his remarks at those who profess to be teachers in the Church, to have wisdom to a considerable degree. And his words remind us of the words of the Apostle Paul, when speaking of the various gifts distributed to the Church, he seemingly points out the dangers of those of large knowledge, and as an illustration of this principle which James presents, he says:—
Tho I could speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not Love, it would imply that I had become as a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal, making a noise indeed, but having no feeling respecting the matter myself,—I have neither part nor lot with those who possess the spirit of Christ. Altho I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and tho I have all faith, and have not Love, I am nothing; and tho I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and give my body to be burned, and have not Love, it profiteth me nothing.—1 Cor. 13:1-8.
Thus the Apostle points out distinctly that knowledge and oratory are not the most vital tests, but that Love permeating the heart and extending out through all the course of life, and actuating and operating our mortal bodies, is the real test—the real proof of our divine relationship. He points out that those who had received gifts of God before they had come into a proper relationship to God might become sounding brass and tinkling cymbals, and thus become “nothing,” if they lose the love, if they lose the spirit of Christ; for “if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”
It is well for the Lord’s people to take particular note of these divine instructions from two of the chiefest of the Apostles, and to remember that valuable tho they be, neither oratory nor knowledge are to be considered amongst the “brethren” as sure proofs of their being in the right way, nor that their influence might not be injurious instead of helpful. The leading characteristic to be looked for in everyone accepted as a servant of the Church, to minister in holy things, should be first of all the spirit of love. We do not mean to say that knowledge and ability should be entirely ignored, but we do mean to say that these should be considered of secondary and not of primary importance, as is always the tendency. Look out from among yourselves holy men, full of the holy spirit, that they may have the charge of the spiritual interests of the different companies of the Lord’s people. And for a divine explanation of how this holy spirit will manifest itself, of the qualities therefore that are to be looked for in the servants of the Church, see 1 Cor. 13:4-8; also 1 Pet. 1:22,23; 2 Pet. 1:1-13. For their own good, as well as for the good of the Church, all who, having other qualifications, give evidence of being puffed up and of desiring to lord it over God’s heritage, the Church, or who manifest envy, strife, bitterness, evil-speaking—these should be passed by, as giving evidence of having the wrong spirit that cometh not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. They are unsafe teachers, and are likely to do more harm than good, with whatever knowledge they may possess.
Continuing, the Apostle leaves no doubt respecting his meaning, for he distinctly outlines the course and fruitage of heavenly wisdom, saying,—”The wisdom that is from above is first pure”—(truthful, honest, sincere, not put on, not used as a garment of light to deceive and to cover up selfishness, malice, hatred, strife; it makes no compromises with sin, impurity, in any shape or form.) It is “peaceable.” (So far from being a quarrelsome, bickering disposition, the “new mind” desires peace—it will contend earnestly for the faith once delivered unto the saints, but it will not contend simply from a love of contention, a love of strife; on the contrary, the new mind is peaceably inclined, would prefer, so far as possible, to yield a non-essential point in a controversy; it loves its opponents and sympathizes with their difficulties.) It is “gentle” (not rude nor coarse, not rough, in action or word or tone; and if the earthen vessel through which it speaks have these rudenesses by nature ingrained, the “new nature” regrets them, strives against them, and seeks to conquer them; and where they do injury
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to others is ready, willing, glad to apologize, and to remove the smart). It is “easy to be entreated” (easy of approach, not haughty, not disdainful, not hard or cruel; yet it is firm on matters of principle—principles cannot be bended or modified; they belong to God. But while affirming the principles, this spirit of wisdom points out its own willingness to moderation, by acknowledging any good features in its opponent, and by pointing out the reason why no modification is possible in relation to divine laws and principles). It is “full of mercy and good fruits.” (It delights in all things prompted by love and kindness; it takes pleasure in doing for others; it takes pleasure, not only in showing mercy to dumb animals under its
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care, but it especially delights in mercy in dealing with brethren in respect to their faults. It is merciful also in the family,—not over-exacting, but generous, kind, benevolent. It is generous also with opponents, and those who are contentious,—not wishing to push a victory, even for the truth, to such a point as would be injurious, hurtful, unmerciful to the antagonist.) It is “without partiality.” (It loves the good, the true, where these are found; and opposes the untrue, the impure and the unholy, whether found amongst friends or enemies. Its justice is of the strictest kind, tempered with mercy; it will not approve a fault in a brother, because he is a brother, but would reprove the same with gentleness and meekness, remembering the liability of all to the assaults of the world, the flesh and the devil. It will not fail to see a virtue in an enemy, nor hesitate to acknowledge it. Truth is its standard, not prejudice, not partyism, not sectarianism.) It is “without hypocrisy.” (It is thoroughly candid; it needs not to feign love, because it is love; it needs not to put on a kindly exterior and to smother feelings of wrath and envy and strife, for it is without envy, without strife. Such works of the flesh and of the devil have, by the grace of God, been seen to be earthly, sensual, devilish, and have been repudiated, and the heart has been justified, cleansed, sanctified to God, renewed in thought, intention, will, and is now full of the treasure of the holy spirit.)
With these thoughts before our minds, let us all, dear readers, more earnestly than ever, guard against the old nature, and its insidious attempts to gain control over our tongues. Let us, more and more, seek to appreciate, in ourselves and in others, this heavenly wisdom, whose operation is so forcefully presented by the Apostle. The more important our members, the more influential, the more earnestly ought we to strive to keep them in full subjection to the Lord, as his servants. Our feet are useful members, consecrated to the Lord; we may use them in many errands of mercy, to the glory of his name and to the profit of his people. Our hands are likewise useful, if thoroughly consecrated to the Lord’s service. Our ears are also useful in his service, to hear for him, to refuse to hear the evil, and thus to approve evil, and to set a good example to others. Our eyes are a great blessing from the Lord, and they also are to be kept from evil, from the lust of the eye and the pride of life, and are to be instruments or servants of righteousness, in seeing the good, in appreciating the good, and in assisting the good, and in helping us to know the will of our God.
But of all our members the most influential is the tongue. The tongue’s influence exceeds that of all our other members combined: to control it, therefore, in the Lord’s service, is the most important work of the Lord’s people in respect to their mortal bodies and the service of these rendered to the Lord. A few words of love, kindness, helpfulness,—how often have such changed the entire course of a human life!—nay; how much they have had to do with moulding the destiny of nations! And how often have evil words, unkind words, slanderous words, done gross injustice, assassinated reputations, etc.!—or, as the Apostle declares, “set on fire the course of nature”—awakening passions, strifes, enmities, at first unthought of. No wonder he declares such tongues “set on fire of Gehenna“—the Second Death!
The public servants of the Church are to some extent specially its “tongues,” and what an influence they wield for good or for evil, in the blessing and upbuilding of the Lord’s people, or for their injury—cursing! How necessary that all the tongue-servants of the Lord’s Body be such, and such only, as are of his spirit! Their influence not only extends to those who are in the Church, but in considerable measure they are mouthpieces heard outside. And the same principle applies to every individual member of the Church, in his use of his member, his tongue. He may use it wisely or unwisely, with heavenly wisdom or with earthly wisdom. He may use it for strife, and tearing down the faith and character of the brethren, in overthrowing love and confidence, or he may use it in building up these graces of the spirit. How many have proved the truth of the Apostle’s words, that the tongue has great possibilities, either for defiling the whole body, the Church, and setting on fire the course of nature, by stirring up the evil poisons and propensities of the fallen nature! How few amongst the Lord’s people have conquered the tongue to the extent of bringing it into subjection to the will of God, that they may minister good, and only good, to all with whom they come in contact! Let us, dearly beloved, be fully resolved that by divine grace (promised to assist us) the present year shall witness great progress in our control of this most important member of our
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bodies, bringing the same into full subjection and obedience and service to the King of kings and Lord of lords—to him who hath called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.
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“LO, I AM WITH THEE!”
The “Lord of the harvest” be near thee,
To comfort, and strengthen, and aid;
His “presence” be with thee to cheer thee,
In sickness, and sorrow, and shade!
May he lead thee to heights of ambition:
To service for great and for small;
The “fire” of the Christ-life within thee,
Consuming the sacrifice all.
—J. W. WATTS.
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“A BOTTLE OF SPIKENARD, VERY COSTLY”
—APRIL 9.—JOHN 12:1-11.—
“She hath done what she could.”—Mark 14:8.
THE last week of our Lord’s earthly ministry was a busy one. The sixth day previous to the Passover was the Jewish Sabbath, which ended at six o’clock in the evening, and it is possible that it was at that time that our Lord and his disciples were entertained by Martha and Mary at “the house of Simon the leper”—probably their father: Lazarus, their brother, whose recovery from death was noted in the previous lesson, was also one of the table-guests.
Our Lord knew that the time of his death was near at hand, and he had given intimations of this to his beloved disciples, but they were so accustomed to having him say wonderful things beyond the power of their comprehension that they probably failed to realize their closeness to the great tragedy of Calvary. This need not surprise us when we remember the Scriptural declaration that our Lord spake in parables and dark sayings—”and without a parable spake he not unto the people:” for instance, his declaration, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” And again, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any man shall eat of this bread he shall live forever.” And again, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.” (John 2:19; 6:51,53.) Having in mind such unusual language, the apostles would be entirely excusable in doubting the proper meaning to be attached to our Lord’s declaration, “The Son of man must be lifted up,” and other similar expressions foretelling his death.
Before coming to the consideration of the Bethany supper and the anointing on that Sabbath evening, let us have before our minds the incidents of the days following it, that we may be able to appreciate our Lord’s declaration that the anointing with the spikenard was preparatory to his burial. The next morning (the first day of the week, now usually called Sunday), having sent after the ass, our Lord rode upon it to Jerusalem. The people, recognizing the wonderful miracle wrought upon Lazarus, congregated and hailed him as Messiah, the Son of David, fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah (9:9), and strewed clothing and palm branches in the way; (hence this is generally known as Palm Sunday). It was on this occasion that our Lord wept over Jerusalem, and declared, “Your house is left unto you desolate.”—Matt. 23:38.
It is supposed that it was on the second day (Monday) that our Lord scourged the money-changers out of the Temple, and taught the people there; and we gather from the narrative that it was in his journey on this day that he pronounced the curse upon “the barren fig tree,” supposed to represent the Jewish nation—barren of fruit, and therefore rejected. It would appear that the third day (Tuesday) was again spent teaching in the Temple, answering questions, etc., and that evening, as they returned again to Bethany, he discoursed with his disciples respecting the great events near at hand. The fourth day (Wednesday) apparently was spent quietly at Bethany, and on the fifth day (Thursday) the disciples made ready the Passover supper which was eaten after six o’clock that evening—the beginning of the sixth day (Friday) according to Jewish reckoning—the 14th of Nisan. The Gethsemane experiences followed that night and the trial before Pilate the next morning, and the crucifixion later.
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Now we come back to witness the hospitalities extended to our Lord six days before the crucifixion, at the house of Simon the leper, the home of Martha and Mary and Lazarus. We are to remember that our Lord was a visitor in those parts, his home, to the extent that he ever had one, being in Galilee, and the most of his time spent there. “He would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him.” (John 7:1.) But now the time for his sacrifice had come, and in harmony therewith he came amongst his enemies,—altho it was known that prominent Jews sought to kill him and also sought the death of Lazarus, who was a living witness to his Messianic power.
We may suppose that this was no ordinary supper, but in the nature of a feast or banquet in our Lord’s honor. Nevertheless, one incident connected with it so outshone all its other features that the narrator mentions it alone—the anointing of our Lord with the
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“spikenard ointment, very costly.” Our Lord himself declared, “Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also which this woman hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.” (Mark 14:9.) It is entirely proper, therefore, that we should examine with some particularity the details of this service so highly esteemed by the Master.
Prof. Shaff says, “By the ‘ointment’ we are to understand rather a liquid perfume than what we commonly know as ointment.” The alabaster box was rather in the shape of a flask or vase, and the breaking of the box (Mark 14:3) signifies the opening of its tyings and seals by which the precious odors were confined. Judas’ words of dissatisfaction furnish us a clue respecting the costliness of this perfume, for he says that it “might have been sold for three hundred denarii.” A denarius, translated “penny” in vs. 5, is represented as being the average daily wages at that time—”a penny [denarius] a day.” (Matt. 20:2.) If we compare these values with present money values, counting farm labor at fifty cents a day (which is certainly a moderate valuation), the three hundred denarii would be the equivalent in wages of one hundred and fifty dollars of our money. Thus we see that the perfume was indeed “very costly.” There was nearly a pint of the perfume, a Roman pound being twelve ounces. Nor need we question the possibility of perfumes being so expensive, for even to-day we have a counterpart in value in the attar of roses made in the far East. It is claimed that four hundred thousand full-grown roses are used to produce one ounce of this perfume, which, in its purity, sells as high as one hundred dollars an ounce, or twelve hundred dollars for the quantity used by Mary in anointing our Lord. It is said that Nero was the first of the Emperors to indulge in the use of costly perfumes for his anointing; but one much more worthy of tribute, homage and anointing with a sweet perfume was the “Prince of the kings of the earth,” whom Mary had the honor to anoint.
Judas was first to object to this as a waste—the difficulty with him being that he loved the Lord too little and money too much. The amount that love is willing to expend for others is, to some extent at least, a measure of the love. Another Evangelist informs us that several of the disciples, under the influence of Judas’ words, took the same view of the matter, and spoke disapprovingly of Mary’s action. The Apostle John, however, takes this opportunity to throw a little sidelight upon the character of Judas—more than is apparent in the common translation of vs. 6. His declaration is, “Now he said this, not because he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the box, and stole what things were deposited in it.”—Diaglott.
Our Lord’s words, “Let her alone!” are in the nature of a severe reproof to those whose sentiments of love had no other measure than that of money. It was indeed true that there were plenty of poor, and there would still be plenty of poor, and plenty of opportunities to minister to them; but the opportunity to specially honor the Lord, and to pour upon him the fragrant odors so beautifully expressive of Mary’s love and devotion, would not be for long, and our Lord declares that the circumstances fully justified the costly expenditure. He shows himself out of sympathy with the sentiments which balance themselves too accurately with money values. Moreover, we may esteem that in many instances like the one here recorded the persons who are so careful lest money should be spent except for the poor are often like Judas, so avaricious that whatever money gets into their possession very little of it gets to the poor.
On the contrary, it is the deep, loving, benevolent hearts, like that of Mary, which delight in costly sacrifices at times, which also are likely to be deeply sympathetic and helpful to the physically poor. And in our ministrations to others we are not to forget that money is not the only thing of which people are sorely in need—some need love and sympathy, who do not need money. Our Lord was one of these: his own heart, full of love, found comparatively little companionship in the more or less sordid minds of even the noblest of the fallen race represented amongst his apostles. In Mary he seemed to find the depth of love and devotion which was to him an odor of sweet incense, of refreshment, of reinvigoration, a tonic: and Mary apparently appreciated, more than did others, the lengths and breadths and heights and depths of the Master’s character; she not only delighted to sit at his feet to learn of him, but now delighted, at a great cost, to give him some manifestation of her devotion, her love.
She poured the perfume first upon our Lord’s head (Mark 14:3), the usual custom, and then the remainder she poured upon his feet. But the Apostle John, in recording the matter, seems to have forgotten entirely the anointing of our Lord’s head, so deeply was he impressed with the still more expressive devotion manifested in the anointing of the feet and the wiping of them with the hairs of her head. It is indeed a picture of love—a devotion well worthy of being told as a memorial. Some one has said,—
“She took ‘woman’s chief ornament’ and devoted it to wiping the travel-stained feet of her Teacher; she devoted the best she had to even the least honorable service for him. It was the strongest possible expression of her love and devotion. She gave her choicest treasures in the most self-devoted manner. She was bashful and retiring, and could not speak her feelings, and therefore she expressed them in this manner.”
We are not surprised to learn that the whole house
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was filled with the odor; and we doubt not that the odor remained for a long time: but far more precious than that was the sweet odor of Mary’s heart-affections which the Lord accepted and will never forget, and the sweet odor of her devotion which has come down through the centuries to us, bringing blessing to all true hearts who have honored her service and desired to emulate her conduct.
It is not our privilege to come into personal contact with our dear Redeemer, but we have, nevertheless, many opportunities for doing that which to some extent will correspond to Mary’s act—it is our privilege to anoint the Lord’s “brethren” with the sweet perfume of love, sympathy, joy and peace, and the more costly this may be as respects our self-denials, the more precious it will be in the estimation of our Elder Brother, who declared that in proportion as we do or do not unto his brethren, we do or do not unto him. (Matt. 25:40,45.) Moreover, he represents these “brethren” in a figure as “members of his body;” and from this standpoint we see that, while it is not our privilege to pour the perfume upon the Head of the body, now highly exalted far above angels, principalities and powers, and every name that is named—next to the Father,—it is our privilege to pour the perfume upon the feet of Christ—the last living members of his Church of this Gospel age.
We know not to what extent the closing years of this Gospel age may correspond to the closing days of our Lord’s ministry—we know not how similar may be the experiences of the “feet” of the body of Christ to the experiences of the Head of the body; we do know, however, that in any event it is our blessed privilege to comfort one another, to encourage one another, to sustain one another, in the trials incident to our “filling up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ.” (Col. 1:24.) And to whatever extent we would improve these opportunities, as did Mary, we must first appreciate them as she did.
Nothing in this suggestion is intended to imply any neglect of the members of our natural families “according to the flesh:” attentions to these are proper always, and are generally so understood, and should more and more be appreciated and used in proportion as the Lord’s people receive freely and fully of his spirit of love,—kindness, gentleness, patience, long-suffering. But we emphasize that which the Scriptures emphasize, namely, that our interest and efforts are not to be confined to those of fleshly tie, but, on the contrary, are to be “especially to the household of faith.” (Gal. 6:10.) There will be other and future opportunities of doing good to mankind in general, but the opportunity for serving “the body of Christ” is limited to the present age.
Apropos of this propriety of doing good to others—expressing our love by our conduct as well as by our words, to the members of our families as well as to the members of the body of Christ, we quote the words of another,—
“The sweetest perfume that the home circle ever knows arises from deeds of loving service which its members do for each other. The sweetest perfumes of our homes do not arise from elegant furniture, soft carpets, elegant pictures, or luxurious viands. Many a home, having all these, is pervaded by an atmosphere
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as tasteless and odorless as bouquets of waxen flowers.”
Another has said,—
“If my friends have alabaster boxes full of fragrant perfume of sympathy and affection laid away, which they intend to break over my body, I would rather they would bring them out in my weary and troubled hours, and open them, that I might be refreshed and cheered with them while I need them. … I would rather have a plain coffin without a flower, a funeral without a eulogy, than a life without the sweetness of love and sympathy. … Flowers on the coffin cast no fragrance backward on the weary road.”
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“I HAVE GIVEN YOU AN EXAMPLE”
—APRIL 16.—JOHN 13:1-17.—
OUR Lord’s ministry was about ended. He had met with his twelve chosen disciples to celebrate the Passover supper, declaring, “I have greatly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer.” (Luke 22:15.) The passover lamb which they were to eat typified our Lord himself, and the eating of it by his disciples represented how believers of the Gospel age were to feed upon Christ in their hearts, and by faith appropriate to themselves the blessings secured to them through his death, “For even Christ our Passover [Lamb] is sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the feast.” (1 Cor. 5:7,8.) But, inasmuch as Jesus was the antitypical Lamb, it was appropriate that the type should be discontinued; and hence it was that our Lord, following this last typical Supper, instituted the Memorial Supper of unleavened bread and fruit of the vine as representing the antitype—his broken body and shed blood.
According to the Jewish custom the Passover supper was celebrated by families, and the twelve apostles, specially chosen by our Lord and giving their allegiance to him as their Head, constituted the nucleus of the family of God—whose hearts and hopes and aims were one—for “ye are all called in one hope of your calling” (Eph. 4:4). Judas was not excluded, altho our Lord evidently knew beforehand that it was he who would betray him. This furnishes us the lesson that, as followers of Christ, we should not judge one another’s hearts, nor surmise evil. After the evil of the heart has manifested itself in words
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or deeds is quite time enough to separate ourselves from others who profess the Lord’s name and desire to fellowship with us. True, the evil begins in the heart, before the outward act, but we should always hope that the brethren may gain the victory, and should seek to do nothing to stumble any, but everything to help them to overcome the influence of the Adversary, and the weaknesses of their own flesh.
John does not give a particular account of the Passover supper, but seems merely to bring in certain valuable features and lessons connected therewith, omitted by the other Evangelists. His declaration is that our Lord knew beforehand that he had reached the end of his earthly career, and was specially solicitous of improving the closing hours with his particular, chosen friends and companions, by inculcating some good lessons. “He loved them to the end”—completely, fully: his own sharp trials, present and approaching, did not distract him, nor absorb his attention. He was, as heretofore, still thinking of and endeavoring to bless others. Nor need we suppose that this love for the twelve applied to them exclusively; rather, that he viewed the twelve as the representatives of “them also which should believe on him through their word”—as he expressed the matter in his prayer to the Father. With this view in mind we can realize that what our Lord said and did to the apostles was intended to be applicable and instructive to all who are his since then.—John 17:20.
From Luke’s account it would appear that on this occasion there was a strife amongst the apostles, a contention, respecting which of them should be esteemed greatest. (Luke 22:24-31.) This strife may not have been solely one of selfishness, in the evil sense of the word, but partially prompted by love for the Master—it may have been in respect to their several positions at the table, the coveted position possibly being closeness to our Lord’s person. We remember how James and John had made request that they might be on the right and on the left of our Lord in the Kingdom, and we remember that in connection with this narrative it is declared that John was next to our Lord, and leaned upon his bosom.
Quite possibly this dispute respecting greatness arose in part from the fact that they were not in this instance treated as guests, but merely had the upper room put at their disposal; having no host, no provision was thereby made for the usual washing of the feet, and it was neglected. The matter of feet-washing in eastern countries, when sandals were worn, was not merely a compliment, but a necessity, the heat of the climate, the openness of the sandals, and the dust of the roads, making it almost indispensable to comfort that the feet be bathed on arriving at the house after a journey. Apparently this question of who of the twelve was greatest, and of which should perform the menial service of feet-washing for the others, had developed the fact that none of them were anxious to take the servant’s position.
Apparently our Lord permitted them to thus disagree, without settling their dispute, without appointing any of their number to the menial service. He allowed them to think the matter over—time to relent and reconsider, and they even proceeded to eat the supper, contrary to custom, with unwashed feet.
Then it was that Jesus arose from the supper, laid aside his outer garment, and attaching a towel to the girdle of his under-garments, took a basin and a ewer for the water, and began to pour the water and wash the feet of his disciples. It was not the custom of the East to pour the water into the basin and put the foot into the water, but to pour the water upon the foot being washed; thus each had clean water, and little was wasted—for water is much more scarce and precious there than with us. We are to remember also that in the East at that time tables and chairs such as we use were not in vogue. On the contrary, the tables were low and shaped somewhat like a horseshoe, and those who sat really reclined, lying upon the table, with the left elbow resting upon a pillow or divan, their heads toward the inside of the horseshoe, where there was a space provided for the food, and also a space for a servant to enter and place the food. Thus it will be seen that the feet extended backward, and could quite easily be reached without disturbing those who were eating.
Our Lord very evidently had already washed the feet of several of the disciples before he came in turn to Peter. Seemingly none of them offered objection, altho no doubt the thought of their own contentions upon this subject, and unwillingness to serve one another, brought them blushes of shame and confusion of face. But when it came to Peter’s turn, he protested. It would never do, he thought, to permit our Lord to perform so menial a service. He asks, “Lord, dost Thou wash my feet?” But our Lord did not stop to reprimand Peter—to give him a thorough “setting down” and scolding, as some of his followers might be inclined to do under such circumstances: he merely insisted on continuing, and treating Peter the same as the others, saying that he would explain the matter later, and that if he washed him not, he could have no part with him.
One cannot help admiring the noble traits in Peter’s conduct, even tho with the same breath we be forced to acknowledge some of his weaknesses, and herein all the Lord’s followers find a lesson of encouragement, for tho they find weaknesses and imperfections, if they find also the heart-loyalty to the Lord which was in Peter, they may continue to have courage and hope to press
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on as he did, from victory to victory, and at last to have the prize, the reward of faithfulness.
When Peter learned that there was more meaning to the washing of the feet than merely its kindness and comfort, and its reproof of the lack of the spirit of humility amongst the disciples, he wanted, not only his feet, but also his hands and his head washed. Noble, thorough-going, whole-hearted, fervent Peter! But our Lord explained that this was not necessary, saying, “He who has been bathed has no need except to wash his feet, but is wholly clean.” (Vs. 10—Diaglott.) Public baths were in use at that time, but even after having taken a general bath, on return to the home it was customary to complete the matter by washing the feet; and this seems to be the inference of our Lord’s remark. The apostles had been with our Lord, and under the influence of his spirit of love, meekness, gentleness, patience, humility, for three years, and had been greatly blessed by “the washing of water through the word” spoken unto them.—John 15:3; Eph. 5:26.
There is an intimation in the Lord’s words, too, that this spirit of pride which had manifested itself among them had been inspired to some extent by their treasurer, Judas,—as evil communications always are corrupting. (1 Cor. 13:33.) This final lesson from their great Teacher was a very impressive one upon the eleven, whose hearts probably were in the right condition to receive the reproof and the lesson, but upon Judas, altho his feet also were washed, the effect evidently was not favorable.
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The spirit of evil which had entered into him before the supper—the desire to obtain money, and the proposition to obtain it by betraying the Lord, evidently continued with him, and instead of being moved aright by our Lord’s humility and service, he was the more moved in the opposite direction—to think little of him. So it is with all who have professed the Lord’s name in every time. Those instructions, examples and experiences, which are working out blessing and proving beneficial to some, are proving injurious to others. The Gospel, in its every phase, is either “a savor of life unto life, or of death unto death.” As it was God’s goodness and mercy that hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so it was the love and humility of Jesus that hardened Judas’ heart, and these principles are still at work, and may be witnessed in the harvest siftings to-day.—2 Cor. 2:16; Exod. 7:13.
After accomplishing the work of washing the feet of all, our Lord resumed his outer garment and reclined again at the supper (this was the Passover Supper—the Memorial Supper of bread and wine being instituted afterward). Our Lord now improved his opportunity and explained to them the meaning of what he had done. He pointed out to them that this menial service did not signify that he was not the Lord and Master, but did signify that as Lord and Master he was not unwilling to serve the lesser members of Jehovah’s family, and to minister to their comfort, even in the most menial service; and that they should not have been unwilling, but glad, to have rendered such service one to another.
The example which our Lord set was not so much in the kind of service (feet-washing), as in the fact of service. Nothing in this example, as we understand it, was in the nature of a ceremony to be performed by the Lord’s people, annually, weekly, monthly, or at any other time; but the principle of his service constituted the example, and is to be observed amongst his followers at all times—they are to love one another and to serve one another, and to consider no service too menial to be performed for each other’s comfort and good.
Those who have interpreted this to signify a ceremony similar to the symbolical ceremony of the Memorial Supper and the symbolical ceremony of Baptism, are, we think, in error. There seems to be nothing symbolical in it. It is merely an illustration of the principle of humility which is to attach to every affair of life. If any of the Lord’s people need washing, or need any other assistance of a menial character, their brethren should gladly and joyfully serve them; and whoever possesses the spirit of the Lord will surely render such service; but to insist, as some do, that each of the Lord’s people should first wash his own feet and have them clean, and then that each should wash one another’s feet ceremoniously, is contrary to his example which he instructs us to follow. The example was a service, and not an inconvenience and ceremony.
Once a year, on the day before “Good Friday,” the pope washes the feet of twelve aged paupers who are brought from the streets and duly prepared by a preliminary washing in private. The pope’s ceremonious washing is done in the presence of many notables. A similar ceremony is performed annually by Emperor Joseph of Austro-Hungary. Neither of these ceremonies, however, is, to our understanding, according to our Lord’s example, but contrary to it—likewise the ceremonious washing performed by some denominations of Christians.
All who are truly the Lord’s followers should heed carefully and follow exactly the true example of the Master’s spirit of meekness, humility and service to the members of his body. The whole thought is contained in his words, “The servant is not greater than his Lord, neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things [if you appreciate these principles applicable to all the affairs of life], happy are ye if ye do them [if you live according to this rule, loving and serving one another].”—Vss. 16,17.
Feelings of emulation, strife and vain-glory seem to specially beset any of the Lord’s people who are possessed of any degree of talent or ability or honorable situation in life, and especially those who are in influential places in the Church; and while these, therefore, need to be specially on guard against this besetment of the flesh, it should not be forgotten that, as some one has said, “There is a pride that looks up with envy, as well as a pride that looks down with scorn.” The Lord’s followers are to remember that pride in any person, in any station, respecting any matter, is highly reprehensible in God’s sight and displeasing to him. “The Lord resisteth the proud, but showeth his favor to the humble.” Hence, all who would abide in the Lord’s love have need to be very careful along this line—to keep very humble, very lowly in conduct, and particularly in mind.—Jas. 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5.