::R3125 : page 1::
VOL. XXIV. JANUARY 1, 1903. No. 1
Views from the Watch Tower…………………… 3
New Year Greetings, 1903…………………. 3
New Financial Conditions…………………. 5
Missionary News…………………………. 5
Concerning Palestine…………………….. 5
Protestant Federation……………………. 5
“Rejoice in the Lord Alway”………………….. 5
Turning the World Upside Down………………… 10
Questions of General Interest………………… 14
Christ the First Fruits………………….. 14
The Beginning of Our Resurrection…………. 14
What Constitutes Chastisement?……………. 15
::R3125 : page 2::
LETTERS FOR THE EDITOR SHOULD BE SENT TO ALLEGHENY, PA., U.S.A.
BUSINESS COMMUNICATIONS AND REMITTANCES
WATCH TOWER BIBLE & TRACT SOCIETY,
“BIBLE HOUSE,” 610, 612, 614 ARCH ST., ALLEGHENY, PA., U.S.A.
BRITISH BRANCH—131 GREEN ST., FOREST GATE, LONDON.
PRICE, $1.00 (4s.) A YEAR IN ADVANCE, 5c (2-1/2d.) A COPY.
MONEY MAY BE SENT BY EXPRESS, BANK DRAFT, POSTAL 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 other infirmity or 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 continually.
ENTERED AS SECOND CLASS MAIL MATTER AT ALLEGHENY, PA., POST OFFICE.
TO OUR FRIENDS ON THE LORD’S POOR LIST
If you do not wish your TOWER to be discontinued at the end of the year, write us a postal card at once, stating your interest and desire to have the journal continued. We are glad to supply you regularly, esteeming it a part of our stewardship from the Lord, but we wish to be assured, at least in each December, that you are still interested and enjoy the TOWER visits.
Occasionally we hear of some one who has been without the TOWER for a year or more, because unable to remit for it. This grieves us. We wish all the interested to have it regularly and the Lord always supplies sufficient funds to meet the expense. Any who cannot pay now, but hope to pay later on, may order on credit; and then if you are never able to pay, tell us so, and we will cheerfully cancel the debt.
But do let us know at once, for it puts us to extra trouble and expense to drop a name and then later reinstate it;—though we are always glad to do this, or in any other manner to lay down our lives for the brethren.
POEMS AND HYMNS OF MILLENNIAL DAWN
Contains a very choice selection of 160 poems and 333 hymns, purged, we trust, from much of the too common erroneous hymn-book theology. We have them in good quantities now. In cloth binding, only 50 cents. TOWER subscribers supplied at the wholesale rate, 25 cents—postage extra, 8 cents.
::R3125 : page 3::
VIEWS FROM THE WATCH TOWER
NEW YEAR GREETINGS, 1903.
THANKS BE TO GOD that his grace has preserved us, “kept us from falling,” through another year!—that so many of us are still of one heart and of one mind in respect to his Word and its service! Our appreciation must be increased by the remembrance that every testimony of the Word is to the effect that the close of the “harvest” time is to be a time of special testing to all professing to be the Lord’s people;—”every man’s work shall be tried so as by fire.” When we remember that the Adversary is to be permitted to bring “strong delusions” upon the Lord’s people for the very purpose of sifting out all not truly his,—that they may believe lies and depart from the truth and be condemned as unworthy;—because they received not the truth in the love of it” (2 Thess. 2:10-12)—it surely should call forth our thanks to God that the opening of another year finds us still standing fast,—appreciating the truth and in full accord with all the divine appointments by which he has kept us from falling.
The Apostle reminds us that rejoicings do not belong as properly to him that putteth on the armor as to him who, having fought the good fight to the finish, shall lay aside the armor and put on robes of glory in the First Resurrection. (1 Kings 20:11; 2 Tim. 4:7,8.) Consequently we must not stop too long even to rejoice that we are what we are by the grace of God, but must go on! The new year is surely full of blessings for the faithful, according to all the precious promises of our Father’s Word. We must grasp these afresh, allowing the Lord’s faithfulness of the past to establish our trust the more firmly for the future. Without faith as the trolley to connect us with the current of divine power we will fail to “go on unto perfection.”
“Faith can firmly trust Him,—come what may.”
Love, too, should be stimulated by a retrospective glance;—discerning the mercies of the Lord toward us should enthuse us with loving zeal for Him and his. “We love him because he first loved us!” We seek to do those things pleasing to our Lord because we love him, and in proportion as we love him we will delight in such obedience and service,—even at the cost of self-sacrifice.
Good resolutions and the reexamination of our ideal and standards of life are appropriate at this season, too. Not that the fully consecrated can add to their consecration—for, if proper, it included our all. Not, either, that we should have an annual round up when we would seek pardon and start out afresh—as typical Israel did each “Day of Atonement” at the beginning of their new year. Spiritual Israelites, rather, are to live a daily, an hourly life of nearness to the High-Priest. The blood of the New Covenant is to be continually invoked for the cleansing of the slightest defilement of conscience, that thus the wedding garment of our Lord’s imputed righteousness may not become bedraggled, but that the slightest spot being removed, we may have it “without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.”
Nevertheless, self-examinations and good resolutions have a value at this season in particular. That reviews of business; taking account of stocks; ascertaining the profits and the losses of the year; etc., are profitable in respect to worldly affairs, all will admit; and the much more important affairs of the soul—the ascertainment of gains and losses as New Creatures and how and when and where these came to us in the constant battle with the world, the flesh and the devil,
::R3125 : page 4::
will surely profit all who make such reckonings with an eye single to the pleasement of the Lord.
Let us, then, set our spiritual aims, ambitions and endeavors still nearer to the perfect divine standard; remembering the while our Lord’s words, “Without me ye can do nothing,” let us be strong and courageous in the strength which he supplies and promises to increase as we are able and willing to accept it.
* * *
There is nothing specially new to note,—except that “all things are onward moving,” in the direction indicated by the Word. The “churches” are coming more and more to favor the combination and trust principle and desire to apply it;—seemingly only a Morganizer is needed. Then the religious “irregulars” will be shamed and discomfited. Capital and labor are each fortifying—each preparing for the great struggle; yet neither realizes how tremendous the conflict will be—nor the results, as we do in the light of the Word. Financial prosperity holds the winds in “Christendom,” though its continuance seems to depend on the expenditure of vast sums in outside wars. The financial conditions are becoming unfavorable in Great Britain, still more so in Germany, and yet more so in Russia.
We have recently noted the rapid progress of Socialism in Germany; below we quote from the New Orleans Times-Democrat respecting its progress in the United States:—
“What will be remembered as easily the most interesting—and we had almost said the most alarming—feature in the Convention of the American Federation of Labor of 1902, was revealed when the Convention, by a vote of 4744 to 4344, rejected this resolution:—
“‘Resolved, That this twenty-second annual Convention of the American Federation of Labor advise the working people to organize their economic and political power to secure for labor the full equivalent of its toil, and the overthrowal of the wage system and establishing an industrial co-operative democracy.'”
“Although defeated, the resolution is especially significant by reason of the great number of votes recorded in favor of its adoption. Out of a total of 9088, the pro-Socialists lost by the exceedingly slender majority of 400 votes. In other words, the American Federation of Labor, as it is today constituted, is almost evenly divided on the question whether or not Socialism should be indorsed. To be exact 47.68 per cent of the Federation is in favor of, and 52.32 per cent is opposed to, Socialism.
“These statistics are of themselves sufficient to make labor leaders throughout the country pause and
::R3126 : page 4::
reflect whither they are tending. The speeches made in the Convention were overwhelmingly in favor of indorsing the Socialistic movement. Delegate Barnes compressed into two sentences the creed of the pro-Socialist advocates. ‘Let us tell Mr. Morgan,’ said he, ‘that, to use his own words, there is nothing to arbitrate. We want your (his) mines, and we want your (his) railroads for the people of this country.’ Delegate Layton said that ‘the time had come when supplication should cease and action should begin.’ ‘The greatest power of the union, or laboring man,’ said he, ‘is the ballot. It should be used, and used for the attainment of the workingman’s ambition.’ The note sounded in these two speeches was echoed in the remarks of other delegates; and but for the vigorous speech made by Mr. Gompers the Federation would unquestionably have thrown the weight of its influence in favor of ‘the overthrowing of the wage system and the establishment of an industrial co-operative democracy.’
“In straight-flung words, Mr. Gompers pointed out that Socialism had more than once been opposed to trades unionism; that the socialistic spirit was essentially the spirit of negation, and that the Federation should shun Socialism as it would leprosy. ‘Good heavens!’ he exclaimed. ‘Study Socialism! Why, we have graduated from it long ago.’ This was Mr. Gompers’ position; and by taking it promptly he stemmed the tide of Socialism that was running high in the convention, and contrived to defeat the resolution. It required no little courage and no little capacity to do what Mr. Gompers did, and his attitude and conduct can hardly be too highly commended. The victory won by him was, however, dearly bought. Above the smoke of the battle, one fact looms large in the public eye, namely; that in a deliberative body of representative American workingmen, 47.68 per cent are in favor of Socialism in the United States.”
* * *
Socialism should not be confounded with Communism or Anarchism; nevertheless, we believe it will surely eventuate in anarchy. Capital—private ownership—will not consent to Socialism on a broad basis and the conflict resulting will be what neither party premeditates or desires. There are really very few people sufficiently unbalanced in heart and mind to approve anarchy.
SOCIALIST VOTE OF THE WORLD
The Appeal gives the following figures as showing the marvelous growth of Socialism all over the world:
United States. Spain.
1890 ………. 13,704 1893 ………. 7,000
1891 ………. 16,552 1895 ………. 14,000
1892 ………. 21,512 1897 ………. 28,000
1893 ………. 25,666 Belgium.
1894 ………. 30,020 1894 ………. 334,500
1895 ………. 34,869 1898 ………. 534,324
1896 ………. 36,275 Denmark.
1897 ………. 55,550 1872 ………. 315
1898 ………. 91,749 1884 ………. 6,805
1900 ………. 135,770 1887 ………. 8,408
1902 Est……. 400,000 1890 ………. 17,232
Italy. 1892 ………. 20,098
1893 ………. 20,000 1895 ………. 25,019
1895 ………. 76,400 1898 ………. 32,000
1897 ………. 134,496 1900 ………. 43,285
::R3126 : page 5::
1867 ………. 30,000 1895 ………. 90,000
1871 ………. 101,927 1897 ………. 750,000
1874 ………. 351,670 France.
1877 ………. 486,843 1885 ………. 30,000
1878 ………. 437,158 1888 ………. 91,000
1881 ………. 311,961 1893 ………. 590,000
1884 ………. 599,990 1898 ………1,000,000
1887 ………. 763,128 Great Britain.
1890 ………1,427,098 1895 ………. 55,000
1893 ………1,786,738 1902 ………. 350,000
1898 ………2,125,000 Switzerland.
Poll 1903…..3,100,000 1890 ………. 13,500
Servia. 1893 ………. 29,822
1895 ………. 55,000 1896 ………. 36,468
NEW FINANCIAL CONDITIONS
The London Spectator, one of the ablest journals in the world, remarks:—
“What a wonderful change has passed over our conception of the word ‘property.’ The writer is old enough to remember when nothing except land and houses was regarded as true property; but now a man may be a millionaire and own nothing that he can see. A few pieces of paper in a box at his banker’s, or, better still, an inscription in a book of which he knows nothing, except that it exists, constitute him a man rich beyond the dreams of avarice, and, moreover, a man who has not to guard his property, and who can realize it—which the rich man of old could not do—in half an hour. It is a very curious change, and one the full effects of which we have yet to perceive.”
This is in full agreement with what we have already pointed out—that bonds and stocks are being used now as instead of money. This is sure to affect conditions during the time of trouble.
The Secretary of “The American Board of Foreign Missions” reports $18,369,163 annual summary of income for Protestant foreign missions; and additions to church membership in all heathen lands for the year at 160,000;—the number dying during the year is not stated.
Estimating the births among the 1,000,000,000 heathens at only one tenth of one per cent, the population increased 1,000,000. Question: How long would it require to convert heathendom to the present standard of “Christendom”? And then,—How long would it require to convert “Christendom” to the condition mentioned in the Lord’s prayer—when God’s will shall be done on Earth even as it is done in Heaven?
Thank God for the promised interference in the present order of things by Immanuel and his promised Kingdom of Heaven;—to bind Satan, open the blinded eyes of understanding and heal and bless all the families of the earth—forcefully, but lovingly—ultimately destroying all wilful evil doers!
“Vienna, Nov. 5.—A dispatch from Constantinople confirms the statement that the Sultan is considering the establishment of a Jewish State in Palestine, and that the proposition is opposed by the French and Russian legations in the interest of the claims of Catholic and Greek Christians to the holy places. The dispatch states that if these claims could be arranged satisfactorily, the scheme of a Jewish State could probably be carried out. The British embassy at Constantinople is said to look with much favor on the proposition to create a Jewish State in Palestine, and if matters should come to an issue, England would undoubtedly support the Sultan as against Russia and France in giving Palestine to the Jews. A noted diplomat is reported as saying: ‘The Sultan of Turkey could take no wiser step for the maintenance of his power and the permanence of his empire than to make Palestine a Jewish State. He would thereby attract to his empire the friendly interest of Jews throughout the world, and the Jewish State would be a bulwark for Turkey against Russian aggression in that direction.'”
“Protestant Christianity is planning to make a demonstration. It is to be an outcome of a convention, just arranged, to be held in February, 1905, and probably in the city of Washington. The national federation of churches, at its meeting this year, created a committee, whose duty it is to secure representatives from all evangelical bodies. This committee has met with hearty response. Religious bodies South as well as North are taking hold of the idea with interest. The highest authorities are naming delegates, and these will meet in the proposed convention representatives from state and local federations. It is purposed by this convention to send forth a joint message signed by the chief pastors and addressed to Protestant Christianity of the United States. The purport of this message will be unity. The plea will be made that Christianity has been weakened by divisions and that the time has arrived for united action. No attempt will be made toward organic unity, but it will be claimed that upon a score of important questions a common ground exists, that overlapping and duplication can be prevented, and that evangelical thought can, if it will, make itself felt as it has not done heretofore.”—St. Louis Globe-Democrat.
::R3127 : page 5::
“REJOICE IN THE LORD ALWAY.”
—PHILIPPIANS 4:1-13—JANUARY 11.—
THE EPISTLE to the Philippians is one of the most loving of all the Church letters written by the Apostle Paul. In our last lesson we considered the story of the founding of that Church and the cost thereof to the faithful Apostle and his companion Silas. The Epistle to the Philippians contains no reproofs, no chidings, such as appear in others of the epistles, but rather it is full of approval, commendation and special
::R3127 : page 6::
love. Apparently, too, this little company of the Lord’s people loved the Apostle as fervently as he loved them. His afflictions on their account bound their hearts to him in lasting gratitude. We find that on at least four occasions they helped to sustain the Apostle; once while at Corinth (2 Cor. 11:9), twice while at Thessalonica (Phil. 4:16), and once while he was a prisoner at Rome. On this latter occasion they sent their gifts and expressions of love by a special messenger, Epaphroditus who, arriving at Rome in the malarial season, took dangerously ill—probably with what is termed the Pontine, or Roman fever. It was on the occasion of the recovery of Epaphroditus and his return to Philippi that the Apostle sent back with him this epistle.
A contemporary writer, referring to the practical manifestation of love by the Philippian brethren makes the following comment: “The people of Malta were the only others recorded who expressed their love in this way to Paul. The Ephesians wept over him, but there is nothing said of their expressing their feelings by aiding him. Perhaps they did.” Evidently the Apostle needed some such manifestation of affection and appreciation of his efforts on their behalf, for his own encouragement. It must have been hard, indeed, for him to love the Church at Corinth as he did—laying down his life on its behalf, as well as on behalf of the other Churches—while realizing keenly, as his epistles distinctly intimate, that he was but lightly esteemed in return.—1 Cor. 4:7-9; 2 Cor. 10:10.
In view of this close and dear relationship between the Apostle and the Church at Philippi, as between an under shepherd, or pastor and the flock, how full of meaning the first verse of our lesson! “My brethren, dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and my crown,—so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.” These words from the pen of a conscientious and sincere man, such as the Apostle was, are fragrant with the very essence of Christian love and fellowship. How much they must have been appreciated, and how much they must have been deserved!
But if there was nothing in the condition of the Philippians to reprove, they, nevertheless, needed the exhortation to stand fast. They had already, by the Lord’s favor, reached a considerable attainment in the graces of the spirit—they must needs be tested, however, to prove them, to try them; and for this ordeal, which every individual, as well as every congregation of the Lord’s people must expect, the Apostle wished to prepare them—to urge that they do not retreat from the advanced steps of love and obedience already taken—that they continue firm, not, however, trusting to their own strength, but, as he expresses it, that they should “stand fast in the Lord,” trusting in his power, in his grace, sufficient for every time of need.
Several of the sisters of this congregation appear to have been prominent helpers in the work, not only when the Apostle was with them, but subsequently. Two of these are mentioned by name (v. 2), and the exhortation that they be of the same mind in the Lord implies that in some respects at least these two were at variance. It is well that we note the Apostle’s language to them very carefully, for there is wisdom in it. He does not exhort them to be of one mind in everything; quite possibly realizing that because of very different temperaments and dispositions, habits of life, etc., this might be impossible; but he does urge them to be of the same mind in the Lord—to preserve a unity of heart and head in all things relating to the Lord and his cause.
It will be of advantage to all of the Lord’s people to pursue in such matters the course which the Apostle here advocates—not to attempt to “harmonize all earthly things” under present conditions;—to be content that each should have differences of opinion on various other subjects, and to insist only on oneness, fellowship, union, harmony in the Lord, in the truth, in the spirit of love, and toward all the members of the household of faith. Insistence on more than this—endeavoring to bring all to one view on social, financial and other questions—endeavoring to bring all to one view respecting dress and food, etc., has caused grievous strivings and estrangements between members of the household of faith; and all such endeavors should be recognized as contrary to the Lord’s instruction through the Apostle—contrary to the “spirit of a sound mind”—contrary to the wisdom that cometh from above,—which entreats and exhorts for unity only in the Lord and along the line of questions positively settled by the Lord in the Scriptures—which generously leaves with each full liberty to act and to judge on all questions not positively settled by the Scriptures. We urge that all of the Lord’s dear flock copy the wisdom of the Apostle in this matter, and heed his injunction, given to these two sisters, to let nothing come between them in the Lord.
In the third verse of our lesson “Yokefellow” apparently should be written with a capital, as the proper name of a brother in the Philippian Church—not only a Yokefellow in name, but as here declared, “a true Yokefellow,” and, as we might expect, therefore, one who would be ready to cooperate with and to assist others. In the Apostle’s judgment, some others were burdened, needing assistance. He specifies Clement and the two sisters already referred to, whose differences were burdening them. That the differences had not yet extended so as to injure them spiritually, the Apostle firmly believed, and hence he declares that he
::R3128 : page 7::
still recognizes them as fellow-laborers, still recognizes that their names are in the Book of Life. On this account they should seek harmony in the Lord, and Brother Yokefellow should fulfil toward them the true meaning of his name, by helping them over their difficulties; helping them to preserve the unity of the spirit in the bonds of peace in the Lord.
There is no room for any of us today to become apostles, for there were only twelve of them, and never will there be more. (Rev. 21:14.) There may not be opportunities for all of us to do great things in the Lord’s service in this harvest time, either; but there are opportunities for every one of us to be true yokefellows—to assist the dear brethren and sisters with their burdens;—not merely financial burdens, or burdens of illness, but sometimes to assist them over difficulties and burdens of the kind suggested in this lesson—burdens of different temperaments and dispositions. Let us each and all seek to be true yokefellows to the various members of the body of Christ. We may be sure that the Lord will highly esteem such service, and that thus we will be growing in that grace which he so highly commended when he said, “Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God.”
Laying down certain general principles for godly living, healthful for New Creatures, the Apostle exhorts,—”Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say, rejoice.” This, the Golden Text of the lesson, represents the very essence of Christian living. Under present conditions it is not supposable that outward circumstances will always be favorable to rejoicing, from the natural standpoint. He, therefore, who would rejoice alway in the Lord must have faith in the Lord,—trust, hope, love. Without these he could not so appropriate to himself the gracious promises of the Word as to be able to rejoice in tribulation and suffering and under trials and difficulties, and when falsely accused and misrepresented, and when slandered and evilly entreated for the truth’s sake. The only ones who can rejoice alway are those who are living very near to the Lord, and who can feel always their oneness with him, and that his protection and care are over them, and that his promise is sure, that all things shall work together for their highest welfare, as New Creatures.
Others may rejoice today and be cast down tomorrow; only the faithful in Christ Jesus are privileged to rejoice alway. The thought of the Lord’s favors, past, present and to come, makes all the trials and difficulties of such to appear very light afflictions, as but for a moment, not worthy to be compared with the glory, honor and immortality promised, and the blessed privileges of divine service, both here and hereafter. The Apostle emphasizes the matter by saying, “Again I say, Rejoice.” We cannot have too many rejoicing Christians, nor can they rejoice too much, if they rejoice in the Lord. This rejoicing is not necessarily boisterous, nor of necessity the reverse. It implies serenity, happiness, peace, pleasure of soul, however, and does not mean that noisy demonstration is essential, as some seem mistakenly to think.
The Apostle further exhorts that the faithful let their moderation, their forbearance, be manifested, not only toward the brethren, but toward all with whom they have to do. The Greek word here rendered “moderation” seems to carry with it the thought of reasonableness, and of not exacting our rights too rigorously. Mercy and leniency are certainly qualities required of all who would be members of the body of the Anointed. Faithfulness in the performance, as far as possible, of all that justice would require of us, and mercifulness in respect to all our requirements of justice from others should be our rule: so shall we be the children of our Father which is in heaven, for he is kind and merciful to the unthankful.
“The Lord is at hand!” The thought seems to be that we who are the Lord’s are not living for the present time. We are expecting great changes to be ushered in when our King shall take to himself his great power and begin his reign. We are not to be struggling for the last inch or the last penny, nor for the extreme of our own rights; but, rather, to be so full of rejoicing in the good things coming, and already ours by faith, that it will make us generous as respects the things of this present time in our dealings with the brethren and with others. We are not expecting justice from the Lord, for nothing that we have or done or could do would justly call for such exceeding great and precious things as he has promised us. And as we are expecting grace or bounty in so large measure we can well afford to be generous and liberal in our sentiments toward others—especially toward the household of faith, because they are our brethren and fellow-representatives of the Lord himself, from whom our bounty is to come; and toward the world without, because they have not the future prospects which we possess, and hence set their hearts upon the things of this present time; and we can well afford to accord them their full share of these or more, since we are so rich through our heavenly Father and our heavenly Bridegroom.
That the Apostle did not mean to be understood that the Lord’s second advent might be expected momentarily, nor before his death, is evident; for elsewhere in his epistles he clearly sets forth his expectation to die, and to wait for the reward, the crown of righteousness laid up for him; elsewhere also he clearly intimates that the day of the Lord could not come until after the great falling away mentioned in the prophecies,
::R3128 : page 8::
and the manifestation of the Man of Sin, etc. (2 Tim. 3:7,8; 2 Thess. 2:2-10.) Evidently, therefore, his only thought in this exhortation, “The Lord is at hand,” was, as already suggested—that we are living in the close of the reign of evil, that the dawning of the day of the Lord is not far distant, and that to the eye of faith it is so near that its influence should affect even the smallest affairs of the present life.
“Be careful for nothing” is the next exhortation; but since our English word careful has lost its original meaning, there is danger of error here. The word originally had the thought of being full of care—anxiety, trouble. The Apostle’s words correspond exactly to our Lord’s injunction, “Take no thought,” and signify, Be not anxious, burdened, full of care. It is proper that the Lord’s people should be careful, in the meaning of the word careful as used today. We should not be careless, indifferent, loose in our conduct or words, but be circumspect.
Anxiety and burdens are unavoidable to those who are depending on themselves, their own wisdom, their own strength, their own skill; but the members of the body of Christ, accepted in the Beloved, adopted into the divine family, sons of God, are assured over and over again in the Word that if they abide faithful all things shall work together for their highest welfare. Why should they be burdened? Why should they feel anxious? He who guards their interests slumbers not. When Christians find themselves anxious, fearful, burdened, the evidence is that they are lacking in faith, and the probability is that they have either never grown to the point of having the proper faith in the Lord, or that they have allowed “earth-born clouds” and cares of this life to come between them and the Lord, so that they no longer have confidence that they are abiding in his love and in his care. All in such condition should go at once to the throne of heavenly grace, and to the divine promises, and obtaining mercy at the former, and feeding upon the latter, they should grow strong in the Lord and in confidence in him, and their corroding cares will give place to faith, confidence, peace of heart, whatever the outward conditions.
Such is the counsel of the Apostle—that instead of continuing in the anxious condition, we should lay all of our affairs before the Lord, supplicating his promised providential care, acknowledging our own lack of wisdom;—and gladly accepting his wisdom and the provisions of his love, we should make every request in a spirit of thanksgiving. This spirit of thanksgiving implies a recognition that the circumstances and conditions in which we are, have been supervised of the Lord, and that we are appreciative of his care and trust it for the future. Thanksgiving for what we have, and a full appreciation of the Lord’s leadings hitherto and now, will preclude any anxiety for the future; for the thankful heart will conclude that he who favored us and redeemed us while we were yet sinners will much more favor and do for us now that we are his through the adoption that is in Christ Jesus.
The question may arise, Why will not God give us the things which he sees us to need without our making petition to him and claiming his promises? Undoubtedly because we need previously to come into the proper attitude of heart to receive his favors and to be advantaged by them. Even as it is, we may be sure that we do not sufficiently appreciate the divine care bestowed upon us hitherto and now. Even in the attitude of prayer and thanksgiving we probably do not discern one-half of our causes for gratitude, as we shall see them by and by, when we shall know even as we are known. It is the same with natural hunger. Unless we were so constituted that the gnawings of hunger would show us our need of food we would probably appreciate it less, even if we ate as much and with the same regularity.
If we have the foregoing described spirit of rejoicing and trust in the Lord, and make all of our requests, so far as we are able to discern, in harmony with his promise, and accept with gratitude and thanksgiving, whatever his providence may send us, then the Apostle assures us, “The peace of God which passeth all understanding shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” The thought here is distinct. It is not our own peace that is referred to. We may by nature be more or less indisposed to peace, restless, dissatisfied, discontented, fearful, foreboding or quarrelsome; but, following the
::R3129 : page 8::
course outlined above, we learn to trust God in all of our affairs, and it is the peace of God—the peace which comes to us from a realization of God’s power and goodness and willingness to hold us by his right hand as his children—that comes in, to keep us from worry, from anxiety, etc. The thought is that this peace stands guard continually, as a sentinel, to challenge every hostile or worrying thought or fear. It keeps the Christian’s mind, so that he at heart has peace with the Lord, fellowship, communion;—and it guards his mind also, his reasoning faculties, instructing him and assuring him respecting the divine power and wisdom and love. But it does not assure him of anything respecting his own perfection or worthiness of acceptance before God. This proper peace merely assures us of our standing in divine favor through Christ Jesus,—his worthiness, his sacrifice, his aid.
Now we come to the Apostle’s grand summing up of the way in which the Christian is to set his affections—fix them, fasten them, hold them upon profitable things; that he may grow in grace as well as in knowledge and love of God. The Apostle points out that the
::R3129 : page 9::
will having been consecrated to the Lord, faith having been exercised in rejoicing and thanksgiving in all of the Lord’s providences, the peace of trust having come in, the further steps in the development of character will be through guarding our thoughts: and this means also the guarding of our words and acts, because it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaketh, and that the whole course of life is directed. What, then, should be the trend of the Christian’s thoughts after he has reached the grand development already outlined by the Apostle? It should be toward things that are true, having no sympathy with anything that is false or even exaggerated. Whoever sympathizes with falsehood or exaggeration is more or less defiling himself. Whoever cleanses his thoughts, and avoids exaggeration, etc., is in that degree purifying his mind and his entire character, and coming the more into touch and sympathy with the Lord himself, who is “the Truth.”
Nor is it sufficient that we are sure of the truth of matters. We are to test them further, and discern to what extent they are honorable, noble; for although the Lord has accepted us, ignoble and imperfect, and has covered the ignoble features of our characters, and proposes to cover them to the end with his own merit, nevertheless, we cannot be in sympathy with the ignoble features of our fallen condition, but on the contrary must desire true nobility, and the highest standards of honor in our hearts, in our thoughts, in all of our dealings with our God and with our fellows. The test of honor is therefore to be applied after the test of the truth. The thing might be true, but Is it honorable to think about it or tell about it? is another question.
Another test we are to apply is, Are the things just? We are not to allow our minds to run along lines that would be unjust, and we are to learn to apply this test of justice to every thought and word and act of ours, while learning at the same time to view the conduct of others from a different standpoint;—so far as reason will permit, from the standpoint of mercy, forbearance, pity, helpfulness. But we cannot be too careful how we criticize every thought we entertain, every plan we mature, that the lines of justice shall in no sense of the word be infringed by us with our hearts’ approval.
Purity is another quality to be esteemed by us. We are to love and cultivate that which is pure to such an extent that that which is impure will become painful to us, distressing, and we will desire to drop it from memory, and this will only be accomplished by continually thinking upon those things that are pure, and avoiding the giving of thought to the things that are impure. We are to recognize true loveliness, and to esteem it. From our standpoint the impure, the unjust, the untrue, the dishonorable things, cannot appear lovely, desirable, worthy of emulation. When we would think on the purest of things we must of necessity lift our mental vision to as high a point as possible, and, as nearly as we may be able, discern the loveliness of the perfect character of our God and of our Lord Jesus Christ, and proportionately the loveliness manifested in one or another of the followers of Jesus, who walk closely in his footsteps. The mind that frequently calls up the lovely perfections of the Lord and the truth, and is well filled by these, is guarded greatly against intrusions of unlovely and unholy things, contrary to the spirit of the Lord. The Apostle concludes the list, by referring to all things of good repute: things of any virtue or value, things in any degree praiseworthy—the noble words or noble deeds or noble sentiments of anybody, we may safely meditate upon, and as a consequence find ourselves growing toward these ideals upon which our minds, our new natures, thus feed. We will become more and more transformed by the renewing of our minds, and approach nearer and nearer to the glorious likeness of our Lord and Master, being changed from glory to glory, inch by inch, step by step, little by little, during the present life; and our thoughts being in this attitude and our union with the Lord maintained, we shall have part in the First Resurrection, which will perfect us forever in the Lord’s image and likeness.
How many (how few!) can say what the Apostle says in vs. 9? “The things which ye both learned and received and heard and saw in me, these things do!” This should be the standard of every Christian, because they each and all are representatives of the Lord, ambassadors for him; hence, so far as in them lieth, their conduct and words should be such as would be living epistles, read by the brethren and by the world to profit. No wonder the Apostle adds that, doing thus, “the God of peace shall be with you.” So surely as he was with the Apostle he will be with all others similarly walking in the footsteps of Jesus.
“I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at length ye have revived your thought for me.” These words seem to imply that their thoughtfulness for the Apostle, and earnestness to improve opportunities to serve him, had to some extent relaxed for a time and been revived. Then, as though fearful that his words might be understood as a reproof, he adds, “Ye did indeed take thought, but ye lacked opportunity.” How careful was this man of God not unnecessarily to wound the feelings of the brethren, and how careful we all should likewise be to let the love of God extend, not only to the degree of giving us liberal sentiments toward the brethren, but also to the extent of influencing our tongues and pens not to wound unnecessarily even the least of them.
::R3129 : page 10::
The Apostle hastens to point out that he is not complaining of want. He had learned to put into practice himself the lesson which he was just communicating to them, regarding rejoicing in the Lord,—to cast aside anxious thought and to approach the Lord in prayer and supplication in thanksgiving, and he possessed the resultant peace. In this condition of heart, however many may have been his necessities, he was not in want, for he was satisfied that the Father would provide the things which he really needed—and more he did not want; for, as he explains, he had learned the lesson, “In whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” We are not to be contented after the manner of the tramp or the indolent and shiftless, who would prefer to “live by faith,” at the expense of others who “labor, working with their hands.” We are not to be content to allow the opportunities and talents and privileges which the Lord has given us to lie idly by, unused; but while using these talents and opportunities to the very best of our ability and intelligence, and while seeking in prayer and supplication, rejoicing and thanksgiving, to use them all as would please the Lord, we should be content with the result of such efforts.
We should conclude that our heavenly Father who feeds the sparrows and who clothes the fields with verdure is quite able to supply our needs in the manner and to the degree that would be for our highest welfare; and so, after having done our part to the best of our ability, we are to be thoroughly contented with the results—even if the results should be the barest necessities of life. But we are not to be contented with the barest necessities unless these are the best results obtainable from a reasonable and judicious use of opportunities and talents which the Lord has given us, consistent with our consecration to his service. “Be content with such things as ye have” does not ignore our talents and opportunities, for these are part of the things which we have,—the things which, as stewards, we are bound to use to the best of our judgments.
Surely the Lord was fitting the Apostle for a grand place in the heavenly Kingdom, when he gave him such a variety of experiences as are detailed in the 12th verse. Surely, as the Lord was touched with the feeling of our infirmities, that he might be a faithful High-Priest for the Millennial Kingdom (as well as to us now), so the Apostle, by his experiences, evidently was being fitted and prepared for a very honorable and prominent place in the Royal Priesthood of the same Kingdom. And so with us: if we find our experiences in life very checkered we may conclude that the Lord sees that we need both the heights and depths of prosperity and adversity to properly instruct us and qualify us for the position he designs for us in the future. Let us, then, as the Apostle did, learn how to abound, not allowing the abundance of earthly good things to swerve us from our consecration vows; and learn also how to be in want (need) and yet not to want anything beyond what the Lord’s wisdom and providence sees best to give,—to be content.
The secret of the Apostle’s success is stated in the last verse of the lesson. It was his close relationship to the Lord, his intimate union with him, his reliance
::R3130 : page 10::
upon him: he was abiding as a branch in the Vine, and was strengthened by the same spirit, and thus was enabled to do all these things and to pass through all these experiences with gratitude, with thankfulness, with rejoicing. Let us all thus learn to “Rejoice in the Lord alway.”
::R3130 : page 10::
TURNING THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN
—ACTS 17:1-12—JANUARY 18.—
“Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet.”—Psa. 119:105.
WHEN released from the prison at Philippi, Paul, Silas and Timothy went about a hundred miles direct to Thessalonica, the largest commercial city of that district—Macedonia. Nothing daunted by their experience at Philippi, apparently not even waiting for their backs to thoroughly heal from the wounds there received, Paul at once began a vigorous presentation of the Gospel. As was his custom, he went first to the Jews. The propriety of this course is evident: the Jews were familiar with the prophecies of the Messiah, and although making their home amongst the Gentiles, nevertheless, as the Apostle declares, they were continually hoping for the fulfilment of the grand promises made to Abraham, confirmed unto Isaac and unto Jacob, and that by divine oath, or affirmation.—Acts 26:7.
Not only were the Jews, acquainted with the prophecies and looking for their fulfilment in a Messiah, better prepared than other peoples for the message of the Gospel, but, additionally, it was part of the divine will that the first offer of the Gospel should go to the Jew, the natural seed of Abraham, who was, by divine intention, to have the first opportunity of becoming a part of the spiritual seed. Furthermore, the Jewish synagogues were ostensibly conducted on a liberal plane, anyone of reasonable ability being free there to show what he could of the teaching of the Scriptures. Thus the Apostle met with the Jews on three Sabbath days; and, according to his own narrative, he labored with his hands for temporal necessities between times. (1 Thess. 2:9.) It was during this stay of probably three to six months that he twice
::R3130 : page 11::
received financial aid from the brethren at Philippi.
The result of his labors was the nucleus of a flourishing church, to which two of his epistles were addressed. The Apostle’s attitude toward these brethren may reasonably be taken as the criterion of his general attitude toward all of the Lord’s dear flock. He dealt not with them as a lord or master amongst slaves or subordinates; but, using his own words, he was gentle toward them, as a nursing mother to her children. (1 Thess. 2:7.) He admonished, comforted, instructed them, “as a father doth his children.” (1 Thess. 2:11.) He lived an unblamable, unselfish life in their midst, giving them the Gospel, and with it his very life.—1 Thess. 2:5-8,10.
The method of the Apostle’s teaching is expressed in the statement that he “reasoned with them out of the Scriptures,” opening and showing forth “that it behooved Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead.” The Greek word used signifies that the teaching was in the nature of a dialogue. He appealed to the Scriptures, offered explanations of their meaning, pointed out how this meaning found its fulfilment in the experience of our Lord, and heard and replied to queries and objections. Like other Jews, these had, of course, thought chiefly on the Scriptures which predict Messiah’s glory and Kingdom, and the grandeur of the position of Israel as his people, dispensing blessing to all the families of the earth. The Apostle pointed out the other Scriptures which spoke of “the sufferings of Christ,” and how it was necessary that he should redeem the world before he could properly deliver it from the power of sin and death. We may be sure that he had the prophetic statements well in mind, and also the various types of the law, and that these were called up in order before his hearers, and the evidences adduced that our Lord fulfilled these; and not only that his death was necessary, as typified in Isaac, but also his resurrection from the dead, that he might be the distributor of the mercies of God. The word “opening” carries with it the thought that these Scriptures had been closed previously, and this is in harmony with the statement of Luke, when mentioning the Lord’s discourse with the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, it is declared that he “opened unto them the Scriptures,” saying, “Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer.”—Luke 24:26,46; 1 Pet. 1:11.
The work to be done today very closely resembles that which was done by the Apostle as here recorded. There is need for us to go with the “meat in due season,” first of all to those who have already been the recipients of divine favors and great advantages every way, to open to them other Scriptures which are now due to be understood;—which show the grand purposes of our heavenly Father in connection with the blessing of all the families of the earth through the Church glorified; and that the glorified Church, under its glorified Head, Christ Jesus, is to constitute the Kingdom of heaven, the divine agency for the blessing of all. It is appropriate that we adopt largely the same plan that the Apostle did, and reason with people out of the Scriptures, opening them before their minds gradually, that they may catch some glimpses of the lengths and breadths and heights and depths of the divine plan. Nevertheless, we know that it will be now even as it was then—that only those who have “an ear to hear” will hear, and that the others will be stirred up to antagonism, bitter envyings, jealousies, etc.
The Apostle’s work was evidently well done, his arguments effective—the result was that some of them (Jews) were persuaded and took sides with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks quite a good many,—who had been feeling after God and who probably had realized that there was more true religion with the Jew than elsewhere,—were now, because of having less Jewish prejudice, more ready than their Jewish friends to hear and appreciate the Gospel of Christ. Of the chief women of the city, too, quite a number were influenced by the message, and became followers of Christ.
Christian people in all denominations today are claiming great liberty—that they are not sectarian, and that all who love the Lord have fullest opportunity to worship with them. But we find that if we take them at their word and attempt to reason with them out of the Scriptures respecting the things now due to be understood, pointing out that we are in the dawn of restitution times, that the Millennial Kingdom is about to be ushered in, and that Christ is not only the Priest who redeemed his people with his blood, but is shortly to be the great Prophet and King who is to rule and instruct the whole world of mankind, the majority are unable to receive this—it is too contrary to their preconceived notions. Especially do the leading ones, the preachers and elders and Sunday School superintendents, feel that they must oppose the truth; that they must not admit that there are in the Word of God “things new and old—meat in due season for the household of faith.” Their objections are often inspired by jealousy or envy, as they note that the message of grace appeals to the hearts of some of the very best of their number, and some of the very best outside their number—of the world.
None like to complain, after having boasted of Christian liberty and fellowship;—they murmur that our preaching of the good tidings of great joy is proselyting—”attempting to steal their members,” etc. They exclaim, “Why do you not go to the slums, instead
::R3130 : page 12::
of coming in amongst us to steal away our best members, our ripest wheat?” We answer that a similar charge of proselyting might with equal force have been brought against our Lord Jesus and against the apostles. The Apostle, as we see, wherever he went, sought for the most religious and most intelligent people, instead of seeking for the most ignorant and the most degraded. Why? Because he well knew that the Gospel he had been sent to proclaim was not intended of the Lord to convert the world, but to gather out of the world a “little flock,” a people for the Lord’s name. (Acts 15:14.) He knew that the Gospel he had to preach would not appeal to the most degraded hoodlums of society; on the contrary, it would appeal most to intelligent people,—and he presented it in as logical, reasonable and intelligent a manner as it could possibly be set forth. It is still proper for us to pursue the same course, and the conditions today of proclaiming the second presence of the Lord, and that the time is at hand for the establishment of the Kingdom and for the gathering of the elect wheat into the barn, can better be presented now to the intelligent, thoughtful, devout people in all the various sects, and of the world, than to others.
Evidently the discussions of those three Sabbath days were all that the Jews as a whole could endure;—apparently the ministers of the truth, thenceforth excluded, went to the house of a prominent believer, Jason, and from there continued their propaganda,—possibly holding meetings at his house. Meantime the opposing Jews at Thessalonica received information from their brethren, opponents of the truth at Philippi, respecting these servants of the Lord, and the message they carried;—and, doubtless, the Adversary persuaded them that they were engaged in a noble cause when they gathered a rabble of market-loungers, “roughs and toughs,” to raise a commotion, and as a mob to
::R3131 : page 12::
make an assault upon Jason’s house, to take the Apostle and his companions before the authorities and have their work stopped. So some of a similar class in spiritual Israel today feel toward the truth and its servants, if we may judge from the epithets sometimes used. The inciting of Sunday school scholars to tear up religious literature and throw the fragments at the distributors is about on a par with the conduct of those Jews of Thessalonica in inciting a mob—the difference between their day and ours of more general intelligence and better police regulations being taken into consideration. A disinterested spectator would be inclined to query—What can be the evil teachings of the WATCH TOWER publications, that would lead a professedly “liberal servant of God” today to feel such an animosity against them? We would only reply that we know of nothing contained in this literature that should arouse any but the warmest sentiments of love toward God and toward the brethren and toward the world in general. It might similarly be questioned in the minds of disinterested persons why reputable Jews and rabbis should incite a mob against the Apostle and his companions? and why the high-priest and Scribes and Pharisees incited the multitude against our Lord? Pilate, evidently was in this position when he inquired respecting our Lord, “Why, what evil hath he done?” It is because the Lord’s message was one of grace and truth that he was hated and crucified. It was because the Apostles and their co-laborers were telling forth the same message of the grace of God in Christ and the blessings yet to come through them, that they were maligned and opposed; and it is the same Gospel, the same good tidings, the same joyful message, of which Christ is the center, the Kingdom and the blessings for all the world of mankind the circumference, that is hated and maligned today;—not by the world, but by those who professedly are God’s people.
Not finding Paul and Silas, the mob dragged Jason and others of the believers before the rulers. The charges were very serious ones—inciting to anarchy and treason—turning the world upside down, and teaching that there is another king, Jesus, whose kingdom is to be universal in due time. While these charges were fraudulent as respects the true standpoint, they nevertheless had in them a sufficiency of truth to make them appear serious. It is true that the Gospel of Christ is revolutionary in its character; that whenever it enters the heart of a man it keeps turning things upside down continually, until it is either ejected or has produced a transformation of heart and life. There is no peace between right and wrong, or light and darkness, in any heart. Peace can be secured only by giving way either to the light or to the darkness; either to the truth or to the error; and since the error is the more popular, the more general, the majority choose peace along that line. The Lord’s people, however, the sincere lovers of righteousness, can have peace on no other terms than those of loyalty to the Lord and his Word, and the principles of his righteousness. The same is true in respect to all the affairs of the world. It is the Gospel of Christ, the Gospel which will be a Gospel of peace in due time, that at the present time, because of evil and ignorance in the world, is setting on fire the very foundations of “the present evil world,” and will ultimately result in the great figurative conflagration which shall consume this present order of things, political, financial, social, religious,—that upon the ruins of present institutions the Lord may shortly erect his Kingdom of righteousness—with peace upon proper foundations of justice and love.
::R3131 : page 13::
We must not be surprised if this Gospel of peace has the same influence today as it had in the days of our Lord and of the apostles. Mark the effect of the precious message at Thessalonica and at Philippi and elsewhere. Mark the effect when the message was delivered from the lips of him who spake as never man spake, and of whose wonderful words it is recorded that “all the people bare him record and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth.” Nevertheless, however graciously stated, the truth is a sword which penetrates in every direction, and which, as our Lord foretold, frequently sets parents against children and children against parents, because the darkness hateth the light and opposeth it in every possible manner.
The decrees of the emperors respecting riots and treason were very strict, and all rulers were held rigidly to account. Hence, when the charges were made of anarchy and treason, both the multitude and the rulers were “troubled;” the multitude, because more or less of a riot had occurred, seemingly because of treason;—and this might lead to the taking away of some of the city’s privileges and liberties, its loss of commerce, etc. The rulers were troubled because they were in danger of being called to account unless they took active steps for the repression of anything resembling treason. They knew, nevertheless, that the charges were fabrications, and, hence, got out of the difficulty by placing Jason and his companions under bonds to keep the peace—to see that similar riots did not occur again. This necessitated the sending of Paul and Silas away as quietly and as quickly as possible.
It need not surprise us to have, at no distant day, charges of anarchy, etc., made against those who today are proclaiming present truth, the harvest message, the establishment of the Kingdom, etc. It might be claimed against us that we are not sufficiently in accord with Caesar’s government, the kingdoms of this world; that we do not manifest sufficient interest in the elections, nor in the militia, etc.; and that our teaching that the Lord is about to establish his Kingdom, and that it will be set up at the expense of all present institutions, which will fall in a time of trouble and anarchy, implies sympathy with anarchy. The charges would be no more true in our case than in the case of the Lord and the apostles; nevertheless, it may be used as a powerful weapon some day, and if it is we must trust to the same God who guarded the interests of his cause then, and who is equally able to guard it now. We may be sure that the door of opportunity for proclaiming the good tidings will not close until the true “wheat” shall have been found, until the elect shall have heard the message that is now due, that they should come out of Babylon and be gathered to the Lord, instead of being bound to human institutions.
In view of the Lord’s teaching regarding this subject, and of how the wisest presentation of it may be ultimately misconstrued, it behooves everyone who would serve the truth faithfully to be as careful as possible not to be misunderstood;—to let it be clearly understood that we neither participate in nor advocate anarchy of any kind; but, on the contrary, are standing for righteousness and the highest of all laws, the divine law; and that we believe that the poorest of laws are better than none, and that the anarchy that will inevitably come upon the world, according to divine predictions, will be a great curse, a great disadvantage in many respects; and that the only reason why we are able to look upon it with any degree of complacency is because of the assurances given us in the Lord’s Word that it will be speedily followed by the Kingdom of God’s dear Son;—in power and authority, to fully control all the turbulent elements.
Leaving Timothy at Thessalonica, Paul and Silas journeyed about fifty miles to a rather obscure Grecian city, called Berea, and, according to their custom, realizing that the preaching of the Gospel of Christ was their chief business, they lost no time in engaging therein. Again they sought the Jews in the synagogue, and this time found some specially susceptible to the truth, referred to as “more noble than they of Thessalonica.” The Greek word used here for “noble” seems to imply persons of noble birth, a higher and nobler class than those of the more commercial city. Nobility of character is favorable, wherever it is found, and from whatever cause, and true nobility implies reasonableness, as distinguished from prejudice. The Bereans were reasonable, professing to believe all that was written in the Law and the Prophets; to be looking for the Messiah; etc., and they welcomed the servants of God who sought to draw their attention particularly to the “things written aforetime.” With all readiness of mind they began to examine the Scriptures, not merely on the Sabbath days, but daily,—to see how well the Apostle’s arguments were supported by the testimony of the Law and the Prophets. As we should expect, many of so noble a class accepted the good tidings. Indeed, the wonder is that any person of noble and reasoning mind, once becoming acquainted with the glorious message of God’s love and mercy in Christ—his plan for selecting the Church now, and by and by of blessing all the families of the earth through it—could disbelieve or could attribute such a Gospel to any human source. Surely its internal evidences are convincing that it is not of man nor by man, but of the Lord.
::R3131 : page 14::
QUESTIONS OF GENERAL INTEREST
CHRIST THE FIRST FRUITS.
Question.—Does the word “first fruit” in 1 Cor. 15:20-23 refer to our Lord Jesus only or to the Christ, Head and body?
Answer—Our Lord Jesus, as represented in verse 20, was certainly the first fruit of all. If we were speaking of summer fruit and would say that strawberries are the first fruit of the season, we could also pick up the first ripe strawberry and say, This is the first fruit. So it is true of our Lord Jesus, the
::R3132 : page 14::
first fruit, and also true of the Lord and the Church together, that they are the “first-fruit unto God of his creatures.”—Jas. 1:18.
Verse 23 refers to the entire Church (the Christ, head and body) as the first fruit, because the discussion is with reference to “every man in his own order,” and not with reference to our Lord Jesus personally. The Lord Jesus and the Church, which is his body, united in glory will constitute the first fruit, the first resurrection (the overcomers being partakers of his resurrection. Phil. 3:10; Rev. 20:4. Compare 2 Pet. 1:4.) “Afterward they that are [who shall become] Christ’s at [during] his presence;” that is, after the close of the Gospel age and the glorification of the Christ will come the second order or class of those to be “made alive.”—Vs. 22.
Verse 22 takes in all who shall be “made alive;” that is, all who shall ever come to perfection of life, eternal life. It declares that these shall attain this life by virtue of being “in Christ,” even as all men who were in Adam lost life.
These verses ignore entirely all who, when brought to a knowledge of the truth, reject it and wilfully choose sin; and they are in harmony with other Scriptures which declare that “He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.”—1 John 5:12.
The description of verse 23 relates, therefore, entirely to the Millennial age, which will begin with the glorification of those who have become Christ’s during the Gospel age and including the perfecting of the remainder of those who shall during the Millennial age accept Christ and the life which is in him. Verse 23 reaches, therefore, down to and beyond the final trial at the end of the Millennial age, represented in Rev. 20:7-10; and verse 24 represents the everlasting condition after the world shall have been blessed with the knowledge of the truth, and the opportunity of coming into Christ as the “City of Refuge,” and after all who would corrupt the earth (all not in full accord with the divine spirit of truth and righteousness—Satan and his servants) shall have been destroyed in the Second Death. Then the mediatorial reign of Christ will terminate, and he will deliver up the Kingdom to the Father.
Notice that, in harmony with the context, verse 22 should read, “As all in Adam die, even so all in Christ shall be made alive.” This passage is very frequently misused to prove the everlasting salvation of all men irrespective of their acceptance of Christ as their Redeemer and King. But, thus translated, this passage is in perfect accord with the remainder of the Bible, which everywhere declares that, “He that hath the Son hath life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.”—1 John 5:12; John 3:36. The Greek text also supports this rendering, and no other view of verse 22 could be reconciled with the context, verses 23,24.
The difficulty with many, however, is that they have never noticed the full sense of the words life and made alive in the Scriptures. The whole world is reckoned as already dead—because under sentence of death through Adam; and unless they eat (assimilate and appropriate by faith) the flesh (sacrificed humanity) of the Son of Man, they have no life and can have no life. (John 6:53.) And those who do so “eat” are said to pass from death unto life now, reckonedly, but the actual making alive of such, as stated in our text, will be in the Resurrection morning. And so it will be with the world in general during the Millennium: they will be awakened by the great Redeemer in order that each may have the offer of everlasting life, on condition of becoming Christ’s, accepting his gracious work for them in the past and his regulations for their future. Thus they may “eat” his flesh—appropriating his merit and receiving thereby his strength and life. They will be accounted or reckoned as beginning to live from the time that they begin to “eat,” but they will not be fully alive, perfect, until the close of the Millennial age of trial or testing.
THE BEGINNING OF OUR RESURRECTION
Question.—In regard to the resurrection of the Church, is it proper for us to consider this in any sense of the word beginning at the time of our consecration, and as progressing during the period of our sojourn in these mortal bodies, and as being complete when we awake in the Lord’s likeness? or should we apply the word resurrection as concerns the Church merely to that great change which will consummate our perfection in glory, honor and immortality?
Answer.—The Scriptures frequently refer to the Church as not only having died to the world and the flesh, but as having already been quickened together with Christ, as already risen with him to walk in newness of life. (Col. 3:1; Rom. 6:11.) This might, of
::R3132 : page 15::
course, be considered by many a figurative start to the resurrection life, but if we are reckoned as new creatures in Christ it implies that the old creature, the old nature, is dead, and, hence, that a new will, or nature, has been started, begotten—that the new creature which God proposes to raise up has started in its upward course. This in no sense of the word applies to a fleshly resurrection, but merely a rising of the spirit of the mind above earthly things to a relationship with the heavenly and spiritual, in which it is declared to be at rest and associated with Christ in heavenly conditions, merely waiting for the new spiritual body, which God has promised shall complete the new creation with such as are faithful to their obligations as new creatures in walking, not after the flesh, but after the spirit, to the extent of their ability.
It is not the flesh, either in the present or the future, that is to be raised, but the new creature, whose resurrection life is already started, and to which God will in due time give a body as it hath pleased him.
WHAT CONSTITUTES CHASTISEMENT?
Question.—I must ask you to set some of us right on the subject of chastisement as recorded in the 12th chapter of Hebrews. Your writings on the subject have been read, yet there are some here who cannot altogether harmonize the matter. It is contended on the one hand that the chastening of the Lord which we as sons must experience, according to your teaching, consists in the tribulation difficulties, the spoiling of our goods, our names, the breaking of ties of friendship which we have enjoyed, the willingness to be called fools for Christ’s sake,—in short, the enduring of all things which Christ endured, and also some sickness and pain in the flesh.
It is contended on the other hand that that cannot be construed as the chastening of the Lord, since the word chastening means to correct, to set aright when we have erred; it is contended that all these things come to us because we have taken the right way, and that the closer we try to remain at the side of the Lord, and the more we cut loose from the world, the severer will be the persecutions, the more contempt will the world heap upon us, and the more will it scorn us, even as it scorned him. It is furthermore contended, that the chastening which, as sons of God, we must experience is directly of God, since the Scriptures (Heb. 12) declare so, and that the things mentioned before do not come to us at the hand of God, but are heaped upon us by Satan and the world; that these things must be expected and must be borne with patience, that thus we are polished, and are building character, and are being prepared for the place that we shall some day, by the grace of God, occupy in his glorious temple.
Now, all of this, it is contended, is as far from the chastening of the Lord as day is from night, since the one is from God and the other from Satan. Now, the chastening of the Lord is explained thus: the Apostle in his writing to the Hebrews (12th chap.) compares the spiritual with the fleshly, saying:—”Should we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits and live?” It is contended, therefore, that the chastening which the sons of God must experience is a chastening of the new spiritual being, which is as yet only in its embryo, or begotten condition, and is yet to be developed. Being weak, it is sometimes overcome, but when it regains its position from the error or sin into which it had been lured, it is grieved, and as the Word declares, it is indeed chastened or corrected, causing it sorrow and pain; but which afterwards yields the peaceable fruits of righteousness.
Having come to the Father with grief and tears, and finding grace, it returns once more to its journey, rejoicing. Having learned the lesson and being rightly exercised by its experience it is more watchful and prayerful, and in the future yields more of the peaceable fruits of righteousness.
The question is asked: Was the stoning to death of Stephen a chastening of the Lord?
Answer.—Using the word chastisement in its broad sense of trial, or trying experience, we should say, Yes. Using the word chastisement in its narrower sense of penalty or correction for wrong-doing, our answer is, No. To my understanding the chastisements of the Lord include both of the kinds you specify—not only correction when we have erred from the way—the Lord’s rod and staff disciplining us,—but, also the experiences which we receive along life’s pathway when we are not straying, but seeking diligently to learn the lessons necessary to our preparation for the Kingdom. The word “chastisements” and the word “corrections” amongst mankind generally carry with them the thought of previous transgressions, for which these are punishments; but this is not necessarily the limitation of thought contained in these words. As new creatures we are begotten to a new nature, which is far higher every way than our present nature; so that even if we were free from all human imperfections (and we are free to the extent that we are covered by the merit of Christ’s righteousness) we would still need correction, that is, to be made right, to be made fit, to be made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light—the divine nature. These chastisements or corrections are in the nature of instructions and tests necessary for our development for the higher plane of life to which we have been called. Our Lord Jesus, for instance, was a son
::R3133 : page 16::
of God, and, if a son, then, as the Apostle says, he was chastened, “for what son is he that the Father chasteneth not? If ye be without chastisement, … then are ye bastards and not sons.” (Heb. 12:7,8.) Our Lord Jesus was a true son, and hence had his share of chastisements. “The chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed.” (Isa. 53:5.) While these chastisements and stripes were necessary for our redemption, they were necessary also to our Lord’s preparation for the high station of glory, honor and immortality to which he was called. Thus we read that “he learned obedience by the things which he suffered.” (Heb. 5:8.) The sufferings or chastisements or corrections were necessary to his glorification. And so it is with us, his brethren: our sins are graciously covered through the merit of his sacrifice; by faith we are accepted as every whit whole, and by faith our sacrifices are accepted, “holy, acceptable unto God.” (Rom. 12:1.) Our chastisements, therefore, are not in the nature of penalties for the weaknesses and imperfections of the flesh, which Jesus has graciously covered for us; but our standing as new creatures is on the perfect plane, and the majority, at least, of our chastisements, like those of the Master, our elder Brother, are disciplinary, and to the intent that we may be ultimately complete in him, meet for the “inheritance of the saints in light.”