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VOL. XXIV. APRIL 15, 1903. No. 8
Views from the Watch Tower……………………115
Kaiser William’s Theology…………………115
Religious Freedom Granted by
Trust Methods in Church Work………………117
Gen. Chaffee Startles Methodists…………117
The Memorial Supper…………………………118
“Lest Ye Enter Into Temptation”………………118
Obligations of a Christian……………………119
“Love as Brethren”…………………………124
An Interesting Letter………………………127
General Conventions, Etc……………………128
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THE EMPHATIC DIAGLOTT
Many friends have overlooked our previous announcement that our stock of this work is entirely exhausted, and orders are continuing to pour in. We are entering these in order of receipt, and all will be filled in rotation when the new editions are ready. We hope to have both leather and cloth editions on hand in about eight weeks.
ABOUT PILGRIM VISITS
Our friends are again reminded that routes for Pilgrims are made up months ahead, and that we cannot insert places after announcements have been made. If you desire a visit, answer the questions of Dec. 15 TOWER (or so many as you can) and send us word promptly.
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KAISER WILLIAM’S THEOLOGY
ABOUT a year ago, at the German Emperor’s instance, Professor Delitzsch delivered an address at the palace. He spoke on recent excavations in Babylon; attempting to show that the findings entirely discredited the Bible and proved that the Hebrews’ intelligence of religious things came to them from the Babylonians. The impression went out that the Emperor was much pleased with that discourse, and evidently had lost his respect for the Bible. This greatly distressed some of his orthodox subjects, and encouraged the Socialists, many of whom are reputed to be unbelievers—agnostics. To offset this, the Emperor has recently invited Prof. Harnack to address his court on the same theme;—Prof. Harnack being rated as “orthodox.”
(We, however, could not rate the Professor as orthodox or Biblical. He holds that the Babylonian findings confirm the Bible records in some respects; viz., that there is a sufficient agreement between these witnesses and the Bible to prove that the Bible is not a fable,—that it records some facts of actual occurrence. However, Prof. Harnack does not accept the Bible as of divine origin as do we and, hence, discredits its dates, and accepts instead the uncertain decipherings of hieroglyphics relating to many dynasties (which may have existed contemporaneously) and by stringing these out one after the other, he and his associates count thousands of years which the Scriptures do not allow.)
Additionally, the Emperor prepared a letter which, as was intended, has been made public. In it he sets forth his religious views and, it is said, has quite satisfied his people. In this connection it should be remembered that the Emperor is summus episcopus of the Prussian Protestant Church—its chief bishop, or overseer.
Commenting on the Emperor’s action, the London Times correspondent says:—
“Orthodox Protestants seem to have apprehended that the foundations of the State, as well as the Church, would be undermined if the summus episcopus encouraged heterodoxy. The question has a deep political bearing also, because the Social Democrats are professedly anti-Christian in a doctrinal sense, and because nearly all the Liberals are freethinkers. The Conservative press is satisfied that the Kaiser holds to the essentials of orthodox Protestantism, and the Liberal press is pleased because the Kaiser’s statement upholds the freedom of research and speculation for scholars.
“The Catholic Kolnische Volks Zeitung sees danger in this distinction between the learned and the ‘people,’ and the Radical Berliner Tageblatt comes to the far-fetched conclusion that the Kaiser’s fearless initiative will produce the greatest and most triumphant impression in England and America, and may help to inspire friendlier feelings there for ‘our Germanic cousins.'”
The “orthodox” are evidently easily satisfied. We trust that readers of ZION’S WATCH TOWER have a much more distinct idea of the inspiration of the Bible writers—the apostles and prophets—than has the Kaiser. We cannot with him count Moses in along with Shakespeare and the Kaiser’s grandfather and Homer and Charlemagne. Moses was both a prophet and a type of the great Prophet and, hence, to us, belongs to an entirely different class from the worldly-wise and great. We quote a portion of the letter:—
“I distinguish between two different kinds of revelation—one progressive, and, as it were, historical; the other purely religious, as preparing the way for the future Messiah.
“Regarding the former it must be said, for me it does not admit of a doubt, not even the slightest, that God reveals himself continuously in the race of men created by him. He breathed into man the breath of his life and follows with fatherly love and interest the
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development of the human race. In order to lead it forward and develop it he reveals himself in this or that great sage, whether priest or king, whether among the heathen, Jews or Christians. Hammurabi was one; so was Moses, Abraham, Homer, Charlemagne, Luther, Shakespeare, Goethe, Kant and Emperor William the Great. These he sought out and endowed with his grace to accomplish splendid, imperishable results for their people in their intellectual and physical provinces, according to his will. How often my grandfather pointed out that he was only an instrument in the Lord’s hands. …
“The legislative act on Sinai, for example, can be only regarded as symbolically inspired by God. When Moses had to reburnish well-known paragraphs of the law, perhaps derived from the code of Hammurabi, in order to incorporate and bind them into the loose, weak fabric of his people, here the historian can perhaps construe from the sense of wording a connection with the laws of Hammurabi, the friend of Abraham. That is perhaps logically correct. But that will never disguise the fact that God incited Moses thereto and in so far revealed himself to the people of Israel.”
The Emperor has evidently become quite tinctured with higher-critic infidelity. If Moses concocted the Law with the assistance of a heathen legend which had been extant several centuries before he was born, he perpetrated a fraud at Mt. Sinai,—a stupendous fraud—when he represented that it was directly God-given. Was our Lord also deceived respecting Hammurabi’s law, palmed off by Moses as of divine origin? And were all the Jews, including the apostles, deceived? Hear our Lord’s words, “Did not Moses give you the Law?” (John 7:19.) When our Lord, after his resurrection, would establish the faith of the disciples on the way to Emmaus, we read: “Beginning with Moses and all the prophets he expounded unto them the Scriptures,” etc. (Luke 24:27.) Did he begin by quoting a fraud, a deceiver who had palmed off Hammurabi’s law for a new divine code? Whoever believes so, cannot believe in our Lord’s claims to Messiahship; for surely Messiah could not be inspired to know what was in man and yet be deluded as present-day wise men claim.
If these men are right Stephen, the first martyr to follow the Lord in death, for his sake, was deceived also. See his testimony concerning Moses in Acts 7:35-44, noting specially vss. 38 and 44.
Who that believes Moses a deceiver and a fraud could longer accept the inspiration of the words of the Apostle Paul on any subject, after noting his eulogy of Moses and the Law of God given by his hand? He says: “It is written in the law of Moses.” (1 Cor. 9:9.) Again he recites an incident of Moses’ presence in Mt. Sinai, not as a part of a stupendous fraud, but as a fact; saying, “Moses … put a vail over his face.” (2 Cor. 3:7-13; Ex. 34:29,30,35.) Again he ascribed that law to God, declaring it so “just and holy and good” that no fallen man could keep it. (Rom. 7:9-12.) He even recites circumstantially the giving of the Law Covenant at Sinai, pointing out that this was a type of the ushering in of the New Covenant.—Heb. 12:18-26.
“The Law was given [of God] by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” “Moses verily was faithful, as a servant over all his house”—he was, therefore, not a fraud.—John 1:17; Heb. 3:5.
The great and worldly-wise are all to stumble into just such unbelief respecting God’s Word, but the faithful are to be kept by the power of God through faith and by assistance divinely granted in this “evil day.” “A thousand shall fall at thy side, but it [the pestilence of infidelity] shall not come nigh thee.” The elect will stand on a sea of glass, as it were mingled with fire, and be able to sing intelligently “the song of Moses, the servant of God [not a fraud], and the Lamb.”—Rev. 15:3.
Quoting further from the war-lord-bishop we are touched to sympathy by his “blind unreason” in the following “most orthodox” sentence,—in which he attempts to discuss what he, evidently, in no sense understands. How true that “the natural man receiveth not [comprehendeth not] the things of the spirit of God: neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor. 2:14.) He says:—
“Christ is God, God in human form. He redeemed us and inspires us, entices us to follow him. We feel his fire burning in us. His sympathy strengthens us. His discontent destroys us. But, also his intercession saves us. Conscious of victory, building solely upon his Word, we go through labor, ridicule, sorrow, misery and death, for we have in him God’s revealed Word, and he never lies.”
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM GRANTED BY THE CZAR OF ALL THE RUSSIAS
St. Petersburg, (Press Cable).—The Czar has issued a decree providing for freedom of religion throughout his dominions, establishing to some degree local self-government and making other concessions to the village committees.
Among the measures outlined by the Czar for the attainment of these ends is reform of the rural laws, which is to be effected with the advice of persons who possess the confidence of the people. The system of administration in the various governments and districts is to be examined by representatives of the different localities concerned, with the view of effecting the necessary amendments. Measures are also to be taken to relieve the peasantry of the burdens of forced labor.
The decree, which was issued in commemoration of the anniversary of the birthday of Alexander III., is considered to be the most significant act of state since the emancipation of serfs. The public hails it as the proclamation of a new era, opening up bright
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prospects of the early improvement of Russian internal administration.
* * *
All who love righteousness and freedom will rejoice in the news conveyed by the above dispatch. However, it would not be wise for us to expect great and speedy changes as a result of this decree. It is almost forced upon the Czar by the poverty and discontent of the people; and it may be a considerable time before the promised reforms are realized. Powerful nobles are opposed to reform, and many of the evils are deeply entrenched in the customs of the land. As yet it is only a paper reform; but it is an illustration of the melting of the mountains [kingdoms] predicted by the prophet.—Psa. 97:5.
The extent to which this decree will affect the political or religious liberties of Jews is doubtful; we expect little from it to their advantage.
TRUST METHODS IN CHURCH WORK
We quote below from the Chicago Inter-Ocean. Where the matter may end is difficult to determine now, but that it is along the lines of higher-criticism, and therefore opposed to real Bible study, from the standpoint of faith, is never to be forgotten. Extracts follow:—
“The purpose of the new organization, which will be known as ‘the Religious Educational Association,’ is to bring about a greater unification of religious interests, irrespective of denomination or creed, and to disseminate religious education through the various mediums outlined in the constitution and by-laws adopted by the convention at the afternoon and closing session of the conference.
“President William R. Harper of the University of Chicago, in his address before the convention, gave a comprehensive and detailed outline of the real scope and purposes of the new organization. All of Dr. Harper’s suggestions concerning the new work were adopted by the convention.
“‘The new organization will be something of a clearing house for religious thought and work,’ said Dr. Harper in his address. He urged the necessity of cooperation among the various religious bodies in stimulating and carrying on the work of the Sunday school and church.
“‘There is a great waste of effort for the lack of co-relation,’ declared Dr. Harper. ‘The new organization will undertake to render service in stimulating present agencies to greater effort, such aid being furnished through suggestion, through the publication of information concerning the work at large, through the provision of larger and better opportunities for these agencies to confer together, and through the help derived from personal contact with each other of those interested in the same divisions of work.’
“Departments and committees represented in the various organizations were named in the constitution adopted by the convention to carry on the work of the organization:—Universities and colleges, theological seminaries, churches and pastors, Sunday schools, secondary public schools, elementary public schools, private schools, teacher-training, young men and young women’s associations, young people’s societies, the home, libraries, the press, correspondence instruction, religious art, and music.
“Three classes of members are to be admitted. These are active, associate and corresponding.
“The new organization will include the establishment of a central board of trustees or directors, which will constitute the executive body of the association, and as such arrange the programs of special and general conventions, secure by proper means the coordination of the work of the departments, and carry into effect the decisions of the association.
“The members of the board will represent the various countries, states, territories and districts furnishing the membership of the association; also the various religious denominations and the various schools of opinion recognized as Christian; and still further, the various divisions of Christian activity, educational, evangelical and philanthropic.
“The principal address of the afternoon was made by the Rev. Frank Gunsaulus. He declared it was not the intention of the new organization to interfere with the work being done by the various lines of religious organizations, but to aid these in securing better results. He said that the field was sufficiently wide to permit the exercise of the very best energies of all who desired to engage in the work. He predicted a useful future for the new organization, and closed his address with an eloquent plea for church unity in educational work.
“President Charles J. Little of Garrett Biblical Institute said he regretted that the Catholics and Jews were not included in the new organization. ‘They exclude themselves from conferences of this kind, but I sincerely hope that the day will soon dawn,’ declared Mr. Little, ‘when we can all get together on common ground.'”
GEN. CHAFFEE STARTLES METHODIST SOCIAL UNION
New York, March 20.—Maj. Gen. Chaffee told the members of the Methodist Social union tonight that he never met an intelligent Chinese who expressed any desire to embrace the Christian religion.—Pittsburg Gazette.
* * *
General Chaffee has been in China for a considerable time, and is widely recognized as a moderate man, whose general sympathies are with the Christian religion; hence, his opinion is weighty. It attests the wisdom of God in passing by the Chinese and sending the gospel to the European barbarians eighteen centuries ago. Evidently there will not be many representatives from China in the “elect Church,” “the bride, the Lamb’s wife.”
Thank God for the good hopes inspired by the great oath-bound promise made to Abraham, of which we, the Church, are heirs (Gal. 3:29)—that all the families of the earth shall yet be blessed with a knowledge of the Lord and with an opportunity for applying that knowledge, so as to return to God’s favor and life everlasting.
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THE MEMORIAL SUPPER
ON Friday evening, April 10th, we celebrate the greatest event of this world’s history: the death of our Lord Jesus, the Redeemer of Adam and his race from the death sentence of the violated law of God. “Christ our Passover is slain, therefore let us keep the feast … with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” Elsewhere we have explained why this Memorial supersedes the typical Passover lamb, etc., and on the same date annually; and the meaning of the bread as the emblem of our Lord’s body, “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners,” and the “cup” as representing his sacrificial death, etc.—See our issue of March 1, 1898.
We earnestly desire that all interested in the divine plan of the ages, trusting in the precious blood and consecrated to the Lord’s service,—even unto death—may appreciate the great privilege and blessing of this service;—wherever they may be and however few may be their collective number. Surely nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ our Lord and, likewise, nothing shall hinder us from thus confessing his great work for us and our great reliance upon him and our respect for his words, This do ye [as often as ye do it] in remembrance of me;—annually.
The Allegheny Church cordially invites all of the class described who can make it convenient to celebrate the Memorial with us in the Bible House Chapel at 7:30 p.m. on the date named. However, we urge that so far as possible each little group usually meeting together do so on this occasion,—after the custom of our Lord’s time,—each family by itself,—each group of the Lord’s children by itself.
We trust for a great blessing upon us all in connection with this service, and are praying for it as one of the things that the Father would be pleased to have us ask for. We hope to hear from the various gatherings by postal card as quickly as possible after the celebration;—the number present and the degree of blessing experienced.
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“LEST YE ENTER INTO TEMPTATION”
“Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.”—Mark 14:38.
IT seems peculiar that there should be greater liability of falling into sin at one season than at another; but, nevertheless, we have noticed for several years, and have before called to the attention of others, the peculiar force of temptations at the time of the Passover, every Spring. Year after year at this season we have noticed special liability of many or all to stumble, or “be offended.” Let us, therefore, take earnest heed to our Lord’s words, and earnestly watch and pray for others and for ourselves; and let each one be on his guard not to cast a stumbling-block before his brother.—Rom. 14:13; Heb. 2:1.
It was at the Passover season that our Lord said, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” Then many of his friends and followers said, “This is a hard saying; who can hear it? … and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?”—John 6:4,51,60,66,67.
It was at the Passover season that Judas bargained for the betrayal of our Lord,—and a little later on accomplished it.
It was about the Passover season that our Lord said, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” (Matt. 26:38.) “I have a baptism [death] to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!”—Luke 12:50.
It was about the Passover season that our Lord took the disciples and began to explain unto them that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of the chief priests and scribes and be put to death (Matt. 16:21); and then Peter was tempted to forget that he was the disciple, and took the Lord and began to rebuke him, saying, “Be it far from thee, Lord. This shall not be unto thee.” Thus also he tempted our Lord to repudiate his sacrifice, and brought upon himself the rebuke—”Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offense unto me: for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those things that be of men.”—Verses 22,23.
It was while met to eat the Passover that the twelve got into a dispute as to which of them should be greatest in the Kingdom. They thus brought upon themselves our Lord’s just rebuke, and induced the illustration of humility on his part by the washing of their feet.
It was when they had sung a hymn and gone out from the Passover that our Lord used to them the words at the head of this article, “Watch ye, and pray, lest ye enter into temptation;” while he himself was in an agonizing battle, and with bloody sweat submitting his will to the will of God; and, praying earnestly, was strengthened.—Luke 22:39-46.
It was but a little later that the emissaries of the High Priest came upon them and the eleven all forsook the Lord and fled (Mark 14:50): the temptation, the fear they could not resist.
It was but a little later that Peter and John, bolder
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than the others, went with the crowd into Pilate’s court to see what would befall the Master; and Peter, being recognized as one of Christ’s disciples, was tempted to deny the Lord with cursing.—Mark 14:68,70,71.
It was at the same time that our Lord was tempted before Pilate, but victoriously “witnessed a good confession.”—1 Tim. 6:13.
The temptations of our Lord followed rapidly. When his foes spat upon him, and crowned him with thorns, and reviled him, saying, “Let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God,” he could have smitten them with disease or death; but, as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. He overcame, and prayed for those who despitefully used him.—Isa. 53:7; Luke 23:33-37.
He might even have concluded that he would not be the Redeemer of such thankless beings; but, while realizing that he could even then ask of the Father and receive the assistance of twelve legions of angels and overcome his enemies, he resisted the temptation. He gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.
The death of our Lord was a great trial of faith to all the disciples, who straightway were tempted to go again to their old fishing business, and neglect the fishing for men.—John 21:3-17.
Paul and the other apostles subsequently had special trials at this special season also. See Acts 20:16; 21:10,11,27-36.
In view of all this in the past, as well as in view of our own experience since the present harvest began in 1874, we feel specially solicitous for the Lord’s sheep every Spring; and this Spring is no exception. What may be the character of the temptations, we may not clearly discern until they are upon us; for if we knew all about them in advance they would be but slight temptations. Watch, therefore, and pray always; for the only safe way is to be prepared; because your adversary, the devil, is seeking whom he may devour. He knows your weak points, and is ready to take advantage of them. We will each need the graces of the spirit in our hearts, as well as the Lord’s “grace to help in time of need” if we would overcome. “Watch ye, and pray, lest ye enter into temptation!”
“My soul, be on thy guard,
Ten thousand foes arise;
The hosts of sin are pressing hard
To draw thee from the prize.”
* * *
“Whosoever will live godly shall suffer persecution.”
“They have called the Master of the house Beelzebub. … The servant is not above his Lord.”
Our Lord said to Pilate, “Thou couldst have no power at all over me except it were given thee from above.” The same is true of every member of his body.
“A man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” “They shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake. … Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven.”
“The god of this world … now worketh in the children of disobedience.” … “We are not ignorant of his devices.”
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OBLIGATIONS OF A CHRISTIAN
—ROMANS 13:7-14.—APRIL 19.—
“Love worketh no ill to his neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.”
SOME one has well denominated this 13th chapter of Romans “The Christian Citizen’s Chapter.” We might consider it remarkable, almost to the extent of amazement, that every feature of Christian life, duty and character is set forth somewhere in the apostolic writings, did we not remember that the apostles, as the stars, or bright ones, of the Church, were specially held in the hand of the Lord; specially guided in their utterances, that they should set forth the whole counsel of God, that the man of God might be thoroughly furnished unto every good word and work.
There is a vast difference between the governmental conditions of the present time and those which prevailed at about the time of the writing of this epistle. Monarchs are no longer absolute; and it is difficult for us to conceive the condition of things in which an emperor had authority not only to set apart culprits as victims for death in public spectacles, but after these had been destroyed, had the authority also to instruct his servants to select further victims from amongst the audience. It is when we get before our minds this view of atrocious government which prevailed in the Apostle’s day that we get the full scope of his injunction, “Let every soul be subject to the higher powers; for the powers that be are ordained of God.” It is comparatively easy to be subject to the higher powers in civilized lands today, for although absolute justice might not be meted out in every instance, there is at least an endeavor to render a show of justice, such as the world has never before known. We should be very thankful that our lot has been favorably cast in this respect. In declaring that “the powers that be are
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ordained of God,” we are not to understand the Apostle to mean that they are endorsed by God, nor that their decisions, rules, etc., are approved by him or are in harmony with his rules and laws. The Apostle’s intimation means simply that in divine providence things are as they are, and our God, who knows all the circumstances and conditions, permits them to be as they are, though he could overthrow and overturn and substitute his own Kingdom of righteousness. Nevertheless, this is not his plan; but rather for the time being he permits the kingdoms of this world, whose rulers are under the prince of this world, and largely blinded by his deceptions, to take much their own course—subject only to certain limitations by which the Lord hinders Satan and any of his misguided dupes from doing real injury to the best interests of the Lord’s people or to the thwarting of the divine plan. His divine power overrules the wrath of man and makes it to praise him, and the remainder, which will not accomplish anything of good, but which would be subversive of the divine arrangements, he will restrain.—Psa. 76:10.
“Render, therefore, to all their dues”—to all men as well as to all rulers—in financial as well as political matters. A great mistake, we believe, is being made along these lines today. The general sentiment amongst Christian people is that Christian citizenship implies engaging in political strife—and endeavoring to determine who shall be the rulers, striving to better the laws and have them obeyed, and putting forth efforts to oppose and rebuke bad laws. It will be noticed that the Apostle gives no such advice. On the contrary, he elsewhere declares, “Your citizenship is in heaven.” (Phil. 3:20, R.V.) We are strangers and foreigners in the kingdoms of this world. Our Kingdom is yet to come; it is promised, and we are praying for it, “Thy Kingdom come; thy will be done on earth,” and we are expecting it; but meantime, as foreigners, “not of this world” (John 18:36), it is our business to render obedience to the laws, customs, usages, of this world, in so far as these do not infringe upon our conscientious obligations to the Lord and the truth; but this does not mean that we are to become partizans in political strifes, and contentions amongst men. Let the world elect its own rulers in whatever way it sees best; we put up with whatever it provides with thankfulness, with gratitude to God for whatever may come, with the realization that he will guide and care for us under all circumstances, and that in any event our highest interests are being conserved. Obedience to the laws of the land might at some time oblige us to bear arms, and in such event it would be our duty to go into the army,
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if unable in any legal and proper manner to obtain exemption, but it would not be our duty to volunteer. We are soldiers in another army, which battles not with carnal weapons, and whose contests are from an entirely different standpoint and in an entirely different spirit. There could be nothing against our consciences in going into the army. Wherever we would go we could take the Lord with us, the Captain of our salvation, and wherever we would go we could find opportunities to serve him and his cause. If it came to the point of battling we above all others need have no fear of death, but we, assuredly, would be obliged to draw the line when commanded to fire, and we could not, in harmony with the divine program, fire upon a fellow-creature with the intention of taking his life. If we fired we should be obliged to fire either into the air or into the ground. All this army service would come in under this heading, “Render to all their dues.” The governor of the state has the right, under the laws, to call for and to conscript, if necessary, soldiers for the defense of the state and of the nation; and if such requisition be enforced upon us we must render our dues and take our share in the trials and difficulties of the service, whatever they may be. The Apostle, however, stipulates more particularly what he means by dues, showing that he does not mean that we owe it to others to vote, to participate in political strifes. He had particularly in mind the paying of tribute, custom, fear, honor, to whom these are due. Tribute was the tax payable by a subject nation to the principal power, as, for instance, by the Jewish nation to the Roman Empire while its vassal. Custom is a tariff duty, or tax, levied in one form or another for the support of government, by a tax upon imports or exports or by direct taxation. Fear, or reverence, is differentiated from honor, or respect, in the sense that it may be the duty to salute an officer or representative of the government, by baring the head or bowing the knee, or otherwise, thus showing him honor or respect, not necessarily as a man, but as an officer, regardless of his personal character. The fear that is to be rendered is in the sense of obedience, as we elsewhere read, “Fear the judge.” The commands of the judge or court are to be obeyed—whatever others might be disposed to do, Christians are never to be found in contempt of court, but are to obey its rules to the very letter, whether they consider them just or unjust, because the judge is the representative of the law, and God permits the law and the judge, and commands us to be subject to whatever he permits. If, therefore, as our Lord explained, some one shall sue us at the law, and take away our coat, or if it include our cloak also, all that we had, we are not to resist; we are to be obedient to the powers that be. This does not mean, however, that we shall willingly submit to the coat or cloak or other articles being taken from us illegally or unjustly without process of law.
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Having thus considered the Christian’s obligation to the government, the Apostle next passes to the consideration of the Christian’s obligation to his neighbors. He is to owe no man anything. This does not necessarily mean that he must not, under any circumstances, borrow, but that if he borrows with a specific understanding respecting the time of return of the money or goods, he shall be prompt to meet the obligation. And unless he is absolutely certain of his ability to meet the obligation, or can give security such as a mortgage, he should not borrow. There is, however, the standing advice of the Word of God that the children of the great King should be lenders, and not borrowers. “Do good and lend.” Indeed, we believe that it would be to the advantage of every child of God if he would put in practise the Apostle’s words in this lesson in the most absolute sense, and never borrow anything; never owe anything; paying for what he needs at the time of purchase, or else waiting for it until, in the Lord’s providence, he is able to pay for it in advance.
There is one thing, however, the Apostle implies we are continually owing to our fellow-creatures, not only to the members of our own family and our own neighborhood, but to all men; viz., love. We owe them this, under the divine law, and it is a part of Christian duty to discharge this obligation daily. A parent or member of the family is to see that he does his part in support of the home and its comforts and privileges and quiet and harmony, that his influence in his neighborhood amongst his friends and acquaintances shall be for good and not for evil, for peace and not for strife. And as the Apostle elsewhere remarks, if he is to do good unto all men, as he has opportunity, and because he loves all and desires their welfare, much more especially is he to have such sentiments and conduct toward those of the household of faith. (Gal. 6:10.) He is to be ready to do good at the expense of his own time and convenience, to all men, but he is to be ready to lay down his life for the brethren—he is to seek opportunities for laying down his life day after day, in the sense of giving his time to the communication of the truth, or helping the Lord’s brethren in any manner, to put on the whole armor of God, and to stand in the evil day.
The Apostle calls attention to the comprehensive statement of the Law set forth by our Lord; viz., that love is the fulfilling of the law, and that, therefore, love for the neighbor signifies that the law of God is fulfilled toward our neighbor. It will be remembered, however, that the law of love is divided into two parts; first, love to God; second, love to our fellows; and the loving of our neighbor would, therefore, be only a part of the fulfilling of the entire love to God. After loving our neighbor, and even laying down our life for him, we would need to see to it that we do not neglect the first feature of this law; viz., that we should love God more than our neighbor and more than ourselves, so that every human interest and matter would be sacrificed gladly in response to our conviction of the divine will.
Going on to speak of the fulfilment of this second part of the Law of Love—the duty toward the neighbor,—the Apostle enumerates the essence of some of the commandments respecting murder, adultery, false witness, theft, covetousness, and all other commandments that relate to our fellow-creatures—they are all met by the Law of Love to our neighbor. The commandments of the Decalogue were all of a negative character, “Thou shalt not” do this or that which would be injurious to thy neighbor. But the new Law of Love is positive, and declares, upon the other side of the question, “Thou shalt love” thy neighbor. Love, therefore, meets all the requirements of the “shalt nots” of the Ten Commandments and much more. For whosoever, in obedience to this Law of Love, is seeking to do good to his neighbor, will surely not slander him nor murder him nor steal from him nor covet his goods, nor otherwise do, or wish to do him injury, or even to think of him with unkindness.
Having considered these two points; viz., duty to rulers and duty to neighbors, the Apostle next turns to the Christian’s duty toward himself, declaring, “Knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep.” The Christian is to realize that he, and in general the whole world, has been asleep in a sort of stupor, in respect to the highest and best and noblest things. Now having gotten the eyes of his understanding opened, and being, at least, partially awake to righteousness, he begins to weigh and measure matters after a fashion different from his previous course. He begins to estimate rightly the things of this present life, as not worthy to be compared with the glorious things which belong to the eternal life. He begins to realize that the world has now been six days (a thousand years each—2 Pet. 3:8) under the reign of sin and death, and that the morning of the great Sabbath of refreshment and blessing and rest is at hand. As he realizes this he should feel disposed to arouse himself and shake himself thoroughly from the dust of ignorance, superstition, blindness and sordidness, and to live in harmony with the glorious hopes he now entertains—living for the new era, the new dispensation, which he sees is approaching, realizing that day by day since first he believed, his salvation is drawing nearer. Instructed by the Word of God, he will not expect his salvation except in connection with the second coming of our Lord Jesus and the establishment of his Kingdom; as the Apostle in another place declares, “The grace that
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is to be brought unto you at the revelation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”—1 Pet. 1:13.
The thought of the second coming of the Lord was continually before the Apostles; and our Lord evidently designed that it should be constantly an incentive to all the members of his Church throughout the age. This, undoubtedly, was one reason why he did not particularly explain the length of time that would intervene—it would be a short time, from God’s standpoint, and even from the human standpoint it would be a short time to each individual who would have only the few remaining years of life wherein to make ready for the glorious things of the future; since “in death there is no remembrance of thee; in the grave who can give thee thanks?”—Psa. 6:5.
Looking back, and perceiving that about 4178 years had already passed in sin and gross darkness upon the world, the Apostle realized that the night was surely far spent, and the day not far distant. And now we, living eighteen centuries nearer to the day, are highly favored by the Lord in this due time, in that we are permitted to see the particulars that were obscure to some extent in the Apostle’s day. We believe that the day is actually at hand; that we are now living in the early dawn of the new dispensation, and that as soon as the harvest of this Gospel age shall be gathered, the work of change, or transformation, by which the kingdoms of this world shall, in a great time of trouble, become the kingdom of our Lord and his Christ, is nigh, even at the door.
What is the force of the Apostle’s argument to those who see as he did the approaching Kingdom of
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light, that shall banish all the darkness of sin, ignorance, superstition, etc.? It is expressed in his words, “Let us, therefore, cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.” The works of darkness would be any works whatsoever that would not stand the fullest investigation; that would not stand approval in the light of the new dispensation, if it were already fully ushered in. Let us remember that we belong to the new dispensation, and not to the old, and should, therefore, live in accordance with our citizenship and our responsibilities toward the Prince of light and in opposition to the prince of darkness, his works and his ways.
We have elsewhere considered this matter of putting on the armor of light; and the necessity, as expressed in the Apostle’s statement, that the particular period of time in which the change from the dominion of the prince of this world to the Kingdom of God’s dear Son will be a specially evil day—a day, a period, in which all the children of light will be crucially tested; such a day as will try every man’s work and faith what they are; a day and a fiery trial through which only the gold, silver and precious stones will pass unscathed, and in which all the hay, wood and stubble of error and sin and human tradition and falsehood will be entirely destroyed. No wonder, then, that the Apostle repeatedly urges us to put on the armor of light—preparation by the Lord’s people for the trials of this particular time, which we perceive is now just upon us—in fact, we are already passing into these very fires of this day of trial. We are already in the time when the wood, hay and stubble is being consumed, and when Higher Criticism, Evolutionary theory, Christian Science, Hypnotism, under its own name and known as Mind Cures, etc., are devouring as a flame all that are not fully devoted to the Lord, and, therefore, specially kept by his power through his Word and providence.
Let us walk honestly, as in the day. We are not yet fully in the day, but we belong to the new era, and are, therefore, to live even in this present time as nearly as possible up to the perfect standards of the future. So to live will signify self-denial—will imply that we will be misunderstood by the world; will imply that we will be thought foolish, and that we will be considered enemies, not only by those who are in gross darkness, but particularly by those who profess to be the Lord’s people, children of the light, but who really prefer darkness and error rather than light and truth. We are inclined to lay special stress on this word “honestly,” and to believe that the Apostle used it advisedly and in a particular sense.
As we look all about us we find that dishonesty is very prevalent; not merely in the world, where we expect a certain amount of duplicity and misrepresentation and deception, and people passing for what they are not, but we find this kind of dishonesty very prevalent amongst professing Christians; yea, we have known ministers to boast of their dishonesty—to declare that they never did believe the creed which they had professed to believe and vowed they would teach to others. Intelligent ministers are today preaching in all denominations what they do not believe, standing for creeds and theories which misrepresent their true sentiments. They are acting dishonestly; they are searing their own consciences; they are putting themselves into a condition where they cannot make progress into the light of the truth; for surely God does not want dishonest people in his elect Church. Surely, unless they become honest, they will have their portion with the hypocrites, for the hypocrites are the dishonest. “Let us walk honestly,” appeals to every true child of God.
Each one should see to it that he is honest, not only in matters of dollars and cents, but honest in his treatment of his neighbors, in his treatment of the brethren, in the Church, and above all, honest in his
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confessions respecting his God and his faith. The test is being made along this line, and those who love the favor of men rather than the favor of God, and who dishonestly are willing to confess and profess a lie, will be given up to their lie, will be permitted to blight their eternal interests, will be proving themselves unfit for the Kingdom—whatever else they may ultimately become fit for. This is the very essence of the Apostle’s declaration in his letter to the Thessalonians (2 Thess. 2:11), when speaking of this evil day, and the great trial that would come upon the Church, he declares that God will send them strong delusions that they might believe a lie—because they were not honest—because they did not obey the truth in the love of it, but acted deceptively, hypocritically, two-facedly.
Our translators seem to have forgotten that these epistles were written to “the saints” (Rom. 1:8), and not to the world, hence, when speaking of certain sins they used English words, which would be applicable to the most depraved class in describing the crimes and wrong course—instead of using such language as would properly represent the misdemeanors that might be expected amongst the saints. There is an illustration of this in our lesson (verse 13), where the Apostle is represented as saying to the saints that they should not indulge in rioting, drunkenness, chambering and wantonness. It is true that the saints should not indulge in any of those things; but it is true also that no saints would think of indulging in such orgies.
The Apostle’s meaning, to our understanding, is a much more refined one than these words would represent. He urges us that in view of the time, and that we are children of the day, that we should not engage in worldly revelries, time-killing pleasures, harmless though they be, and that we should not be intoxicated with the spirit of this world. As, for instance, some have an intoxication for money, wealth; others an intoxication for business; others for dress; others for music; others for art; but as the Lord’s people, who have got a glimpse of the new day, and the great work of God which is to be accomplished in that day, our hearts should be so absorbed in the work of God that these matters, which would be thought proper enough and right enough in others, worldly people—because they are not awake as we are, and because they see not the future as we see it—should be far from our conception and our course.
In urging the saints to avoid chambering and wantonness, we are not to understand the Apostle to mean fornication and adultery, and general lasciviousness, as he might warn the most depraved and most benighted of the children of this world. We are to understand him to address these words to the saints, urging them to continence in their social relations—urging that the thoughts of the Kingdom shall lift their minds and disengage their affections to a large extent, at least, from the earthly affections and the lawful sexual congress. This is a statement to the Romans of the same thing that he mentions to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 7:29); “Brethren, the time is short; it remaineth both that they that have wives be as though they had none, … and they that use this world as not abusing it.” The Apostle, however, puts limitations to this counsel, as expressed in vss. 5-7 of the same chapter. This interpretation of the Apostle’s sentiments is fully corroborated by the concluding words of this verse (13). By the general rules of language he would not begin his argument with the grosser sins, and end with the less, but reversely, conclude with the stronger argument. Here he concludes with the exhortation that the saints, in watching as in the day, shall avoid strife and envy.
The other difficulties would be comparatively their own concern—their participation in revelries might do no harm to others, their being overcharged with a spirit of intoxication for wealth or fashion or art or music, might do no injury to others, their inordinateness in lawful sexual matters might do no injury to the cause in general; but when he comes to strife and envy he notes two qualities which reach out and would not only imply a wrong condition of heart on the part of the transgressor, which indulged would ultimately bar him from the Kingdom, but would represent also elements of character which would be injurious to the whole body of Christ, which is the Church. And be it noticed that these various dispositions, carelessness of life, the overcharged, or drunken condition, as respects earthly affairs (Luke 21:34), and lack of self-restraint in connubial relationship, would be very apt to go hand in hand with a wrong spirit in the Church—a spirit of strife, contention, wilfulness—not submitting to the divine Word and providence, but, on the contrary, the arousing of jealousies, ambitions, on behalf of self or others, for prominence in the body.
To the contrary of all this, the saints are to seek more and more to put on the Lord Jesus Christ—to take each to himself the characteristics of the Lord Jesus—his meekness, his patience, his gentleness, his forbearance, his love, his willingness to be servant of all, his temperateness and moderation in all things, his complete devotion to the Father, his complete submission to the holy spirit in all of his affairs.
In thus seeking to be like the Lord the saints are to “make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” They will find the flesh continually insisting that it be recognized, that it be not mortified, that plans and arrangements shall be made for its comfort, pleasure, gratification. The saints, however, are to
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make no such provision; they are to ignore the flesh, to the extent they are able; they are to consider its tastes, appetites and preferences, as generally depraved and improper to be gratified. They are to do this so thoroughly that they will make no provision for it, but merely provide for the doing of the will of the Lord in all things, whether the will of the Lord be pleasant or unpleasant, agreeable or disagreeable to the flesh.
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“LOVE AS BRETHREN”
—ACTS 21:1-12.—APRIL 26.—
Golden Text.—”The will of the Lord be done.”—Acts 21:14.
BROTHERHOOD in Christ is the closest of all relationships, and many incidents in the Apostle’s journey from Ephesus to Jerusalem illustrate this brotherhood relationship most beautifully. In a preceding lesson we had the account of the parting of Paul and his company from the elders at Ephesus, and of their loving demonstration and tears and prayers. The first verse of this lesson says, “After we were gotten from them,” etc.,—the words “gotten from” signifying, torn ourselves away, as though the hearts of all were so thoroughly united that the separation meant the breaking of very tender ties. And so we find it to be today, with the Lord’s similarly consecrated people. They become attached to each other in a manner that formal creeds and confessions in earthly bundles, or denominations, do not bind. Each one who is united to Christ feels a special interest in, and sympathy for, each fellow-member, so that, as the Apostle says, if one member rejoice all are glad, and if one member be in trouble or affliction or sorrow all are sympathetically affected. This will be noticeable in proportion as the law of love develops and abounds in each member. The little love in the beginning of Christian character will expand and deepen, filling all the avenues of the heart, and sanctifying them in a pure, unselfish, holy love.
The voyage from Miletus to Patara was probably in a small coasting vessel. At the latter port they found a larger seagoing vessel, on which they made the through journey to Tyre. At the latter place the Apostle and his companions hunted up some believers, whom they previously knew resided there. This is another evidence of affection and interest. Apparently the number of the interested was small, just as today; the twos and threes, sixes and sevens, are much more numerous than larger companies. The fewness did not hinder the Apostle from seeking them out, that he might encourage and strengthen them. Rather, we may say that in some respects the appreciation of the fact that the Lord’s jewels are not numerous makes them all the more precious. In this little church were some who evidently had the gift of prophecy, as it was granted in the early church—foretelling future events, just as with the prophets of old, Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc., except that those of the earlier dispensation spoke evidently in a more public manner, while these latter had messages especially for the Apostle and the Church. The message that came to them was to the effect that the Apostle at Jerusalem would be caused to suffer; would be imprisoned, maltreated, etc., and on this account they urged him not to go. The Apostle tells us previously, that the spirit witnessed in various places that bonds and imprisonment awaited him; but, nevertheless, he understood it to be the divine will that he should go to Jerusalem, and that, hence, he would not hesitate, knowing that the Lord was able to work out his own good purposes, if he were obedient. We are not to understand this testimony of these local prophets to be a contradiction of the Apostle’s understanding of the same holy spirit’s leading; the one teaching him that he should go to Jerusalem, the other teaching that he should not go to Jerusalem. We are rather to understand that these prophets merely had from God a revelation to the effect that Paul would suffer violence in the city of the great King, and that on the strength of this information they themselves advised the Apostle not to go. But Paul, without disrespect, or in any degree impugning the truthfulness of their message, drew a different lesson from it—understood the Lord’s message differently. He saw that this meant a trial of his faith, his zeal, his perseverance, and that for him to yield to these suggestions, through fear, would have been an evidence of his lack of confidence in God, since the Lord had himself revealed to him that he should go up to Jerusalem.
It may be wondered why the Apostle would feel so urgently desirous of going to Jerusalem, knowing in advance what to expect. We reply that he evidently realized that the work amongst the Gentiles was growing considerably, and that there was a feeling that there was a more or less clearly defined separation of interest and sympathy as between believing Gentiles and believing Jews, and that part of the Apostle’s object in this visit was to counteract this tendency and to help cement the Church as one. He was taking with him contributions from the various churches amongst the Gentiles to the poor of the larger congregation at Jerusalem, a thank-offering to the Lord for the good things which had been sent to them through their Jewish brethren. These offerings would attest the love and fellowship of the Gentile
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believers, and help to convince the brethren at Jerusalem that those abroad had one and the same spirit as those with whom they were better acquainted in Palestine. Then again, in Paul’s company were several Gentile representatives, as it were, of the grace of God amongst the Gentiles—noble brethren, whose meekness, patience, gentleness, long-suffering; brotherly kindness and various fruits of the spirit fully attested the work of grace amongst the Gentiles to be the same as amongst the Jews. Furthermore, the Apostle realized that some had, intentionally or unintentionally, misrepresented his position—claiming that he was an opponent of the Law and of the Jews. He was an opponent of neither; he loved the Jews as his brethren, and he loved the Law of Moses, realizing that it was just, perfect and good, and so great and wonderful a law that no fallen human being could possibly live up to all of its requisites, and that, therefore, whoever would be justified could not be justified by the Law, through obedience to it, but must be justified according to God’s arrangement—justified by faith. During this visit he hoped to be able to show that he had no disrespect for the Law, but that as Jesus magnified it, held it up, and showed how great and wonderful a law it was, he, Paul, magnified the Law of God, the Law of Moses, and showed that it could be kept only reckonedly, by any of the fallen race, and then only by those who could have imputed to them the righteousness of Christ to make up for their blemishes and shortcomings.
Furthermore, he foresaw the complete fall of his nation from all divine favor into unbelief and a great time of trouble, just at hand, and he, doubtless, desired to make one further effort amongst the Jews to give a final testimony that might be helpful to some, hoping that his experience in the many years amongst the Gentiles might have brought him greater wisdom in knowing how to present the gracious message. We know that these were his sentiments respecting the condition of the Jews, because his Epistle to the Romans had already been written—after he left Ephesus, presumably at Corinth,—and in that Epistle to the Romans it will be remembered that in the ninth, tenth and eleventh chapters the Apostle clearly sets forth the stumbling of the whole Jewish nation, only a remnant taking hold upon the Lord Jesus, the rest being blinded until the fulness of the Gentiles should be come in. We remember his explanation of the olive tree, whose root was the promise made to Abraham, and whose branches were the individuals of the Jewish nation. The breaking off of these branches from divine favor left opportunity for grafting into this olive tree—of divine favor and participation in the covenant made with Abraham—of all of the Gentiles who should heartily accept the Redeemer. The Apostle had all these thoughts, then, clearly in his mind. He had no expectation of being able to turn Israel as a nation, but he did wish them to discern his love for them, and his earnest desire to assist them, that peradventure he might remove from the minds of the Apostles not only any prejudice they might, as Jews, have had against the Gentile converts, but that, additionally, he might assist some who had not yet made a decision, not yet gone into the condition of darkness, stumbling, etc. Here again love as brethren is manifest. The Apostle loved the Jewish nation with an intense love, as is witnessed by his declaration, “I could wish myself accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” (Rom. 9:3.) Not that he would wish to suffer eternal torture for them, nor yet that he would wish to be cut off in the Second Death for them; but that he was willing to be cut off from participation in the glories of the Kingdom, as a member of the body of Christ, if thereby he could have brought his nation into that glorious position, the first right to which belonged to them as a people, until they rejected it.
The stay with the little company at Tyre lasted seven days, while their vessel was unloading its cargo and reloading another. As we read the account of how the disciples at Tyre, with their wives and children, accompanied the Apostle and his companions to the ship, and all kneeled in prayer on the shore, we say to ourselves that the spirit of discipleship was evidently the same everywhere in the early Church—just as warm and just as expressive among these probably less cultured ones at Tyre, as it was with the elders of the Church of Ephesus at Miletus. And we are glad to say that the household of faith today has many of the same characteristics of intense love for the brethren, even though they have not previously seen each other. We frequently think of this striking likeness when some of the friends, and sometimes their children, accompany us to the railway station to say “Good-bye.” Truly by one spirit we are all baptized into the one body, and whoever lacks this spirit of fellowship, of oneness, is quite likely to become more and more cool and indifferent, until he loses the truth entirely; and whoever cultivates this spirit of fellowship and love for all the members of the body of Christ will find it growing, intensifying.
“Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.”
Mrs. M. J. Preston has put into poetic form the thought that we should speak our kind sentiments, and look them, and perform our kind services to one another, while we have the opportunity—and not let these
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opportunities go by, and leave our expressions until our friends are cold in death. She says:—
“What use for rope if it be not flung
Till the swimmer’s grasp to the rock has clung?
What help in a comrade’s bugle blast
When the peril of Alpine heights is past?
What need that the stirring paeon roll
When the runner is safe within the goal?
What worth is eulogy’s blandest breath
When whispered in ears that are hushed in death?
No, no! if you have but a word of cheer
Speak it while I am alive to hear.”
Leaving Tyre their vessel soon came to Ptolemais. There were a few friends at Ptolemais, and the day was spent in their company, and probably the partings again were full of expressions of sympathy; and then Caesarea, the Roman capital of Palestine, was reached. Philip the evangelist, one of the seven deacons originally appointed at Jerusalem, and who did a good work, it will be remembered, with the Ethiopian eunuch and at Samaria, was at this time apparently making Caesarea his home. We have no definite statement respecting the number of believers at the place, but evidently most of these groups of the Lord’s people were few in number. Five of the Church, at least, were of Philip’s own family, for he had four daughters, who are spoken of as unmarried sisters which did prophesy. It is difficult for us to determine whether or not they prophesied of future events, because this word “prophesy” is also used to designate public speaking without reference to foreseeing. Apparently the Apostle’s company tarried more days at Caesarea than they had intended, for finding that they would not be in time for the Passover the Apostle and his company were not in special haste to reach Jerusalem before the Pentecost season. It was while they tarried in the latter place that Agabus, a brother in the Lord, who had delivered important prophecies of future events, came to Caesarea and finding Paul took his girdle and therewith bound his own feet and hands, and declared that thus Paul would be bound and delivered to the Gentiles. This form of prophecy, illustrating by signs, was not uncommon to the Jews. It will be remembered that Isaiah and Jeremiah and others of the prophets similarly acted out parts of their messages—thus, doubtless, making them more impressive.
This last testimony from Agabus seems to have affected all of Paul’s companions who, taking a view similar to that taken by others, now joined in a general appeal to the Apostle not to go further on the journey—to give it up, not to run foolishly into danger. His reply shows us how thoroughly convinced he felt that it was the Lord’s will, and that his dear friends were conscientious, he does not for an instant dispute. His words are most touching: “What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart?” Here again we are reminded of the words of the poet:—
“We share our mutual woes;
Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows
The sympathizing tear.”
But the Apostle was firm. He had not started on this journey without the full conviction and assurance that it was in the Lord’s providence that he should take it; and he was not to be daunted by any of the circumstances that might arise. He well knew that all the powers of darkness would assail him in vain, except as the Lord should permit, and he well knew also that the Lord would permit nothing to occur that would be to his real disadvantage. He would, therefore, go on conscientiously and courageously, and finish the work that the Father had given him to do. He would be sustained by his faith in the divine supervision of all his affairs, just as our Lord Jesus was; who, we remember, said to Pilate, “Thou couldst have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above.”—John 19:11.
There are few such noble characters as Paul’s, unmoved by threats or fears, strong in the Lord and in the power of his might, and ready not only to be bound for Christ’s sake, but to die, if such should be the arrangement of the Lord’s providence on his behalf. Let us each and all emulate this noble example of one who followed so closely in the footsteps of our Lord and Master. Let us be strong, not only in our consecration, but also in the taking of all the steps that the Lord’s providence may lead us to take.
The Apostle’s argument was successful. He infused new courage into the hearts of his colaborers, and they apparently resolved that if he were about to die or suffer they, too, would rejoice if the will of God respecting them eventuated in their death; and if they did not suffer personally they would, at least, have the honor of being companions of those who were misused for Christ’s sake, and thus be to some extent the sharers in the blessing promised. (Heb. 10:32,33.) The Apostle’s companions saw the matter as he did, that it was the Lord’s will; and they resolved to bow to it, notwithstanding that the Lord had given them information in advance which would have permitted them to turn back, or seek to save their lives. There is a very valuable lesson for all of the Lord’s dear people in this word, “The will of the Lord be done.” We should each seek to know the will of the Lord. If first of all our consecration be complete, even unto death, it will mean that we are seeking to know what the will of the Lord is respecting us, and it will mean that as we learn his will we will do it at any cost. It will mean that we will be on the outlook for the Lord’s providences in all of our affairs, realizing that nothing happens by chance to those who are in covenant relationship with God, as members of the body of Christ,—that all
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things must work together for good to them. A fuller realization of the divine care over the elect would, doubtless, often guide our steps aright by directing the eye of faith to expect the Lord’s leadings and to look for them in all matters that are of any importance.
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AN INTERESTING LETTER
DEAR BRO. RUSSELL:—
In the late fall of 1899 a young woman stopped in my house long enough to sell my wife a Volume I., M. DAWN, for which she was canvassing. My wife, being of the Roman Catholic faith, hesitated to read the book, and, knowing my irreligious disposition, feared to inform me of her purchase, thinking I might ridicule her action; so the book lay untouched for some months. After Christmas my wife, while engaged in making up a parcel for my relatives in a distant city, bethought herself of the book and an easy way to dispose of it, by sending to my grandmother, and thus also relieve herself one of the perplexities of Christmas giving, the religious nature of the book appealing to her idea of an aged person’s disposition. I came into the room at this juncture, and, noticing the book, questioned her concerning it. On learning her intention, I explained to her the conception she had of my grandparent’s disposition was erroneous, and that, instead of appreciating the gift, an opposite effect would be the case, as, to one of the old lady’s temperament, it would imply that as she was now in the evening of life we felt it were best for her to prepare for the end by becoming religious. My wife saw the point, and the book was not sent, its pretty cover alone saving it from destruction as useless.
During the long winter evenings, being a voracious book-worm and tiring of the mechanical and scientific works which were my usual bent, I took up the volume of DAWN, more out of curiosity and want of something else, apparently. On reading the preface I was very favorably impressed by the utter absence of the ego most authors infuse into this portion of a book, and naturally desired to read further in the writings of so unusual a person. My mind must have been in relation to the volume in about the same condition that a soft veinless piece of marble is to a sculptor, for each statement left an impression, each opposing thought being readily and reasonably answered and dispelled. I read on long past the usual hour for retiring, not heeding repeated admonitions from my wife that I would be late to work next morning. This continued each evening as opportunity offered, taking up each volume, (having meantime procured the same), to the entire neglect of my usual studies, and becoming more deeply impressed and enlightened as I progressed. It was truly a coming “out of darkness into his marvelous light,” and the thoughts and feelings inspired in me by the reading of these volumes cannot be described; they are beyond words. It was all so grand, so reasonable, so completely filling my heart with love for the great One who alone could devise such a wonderful plan; it was so natural to believe these writings, and in all my studies from Vol. I. to V. not once did a serious doubt arise in my mind but that each statement was absolutely true, for the God of the writer was different from the horrid monster my childhood’s teachers had told me of, who
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could torment eternally those he loved, and was otherwise so contrary and inconsistent.
Meanwhile Satan had endeavored to draw me aside, and, by the conciliatory efforts of a Roman Catholic clergyman to induce me to join myself to that faith, as well as the promise of family peace and worldly prosperity, lure me from the high calling toward which I was progressing. But I can with much fervor thank my heavenly Father that I had read enough from M. DAWN, as well as some timely advice from yourself, to be ably fortified against Satan’s advances, and, with the “spirit of a sound mind,” I could combat his sophistry. Now, since the light has become brighter to me, I can clearly see that God’s overruling power was exerted in every instance just where I could not help myself further, and would have fallen but for his aid. Praises to his love!
Of course I could no more keep to myself these glorious tidings than a freshly opened bottle could retain the effervescent liquor that fills it. I must tell someone, and, as my dear wife not only refused to listen but opposed me, I had to try elsewhere. In a fellow-employee, Sister Kestner, I found a ready listener, and the volumes sold to me were of double service, for her experience was but a repetition of my own. Each now was alert to spread to others the knowledge we enjoyed. Bro. Bird we found hungering and thirsting after righteousness and we proceeded to cooperate in filling him, while he, on imparting to his sister Mary what he had learned, was surprised to find that she had a set of the DAWNS, but being somewhat bound by sectarianism had not as yet mustered sufficient courage to make a bold stand for the truth and put into practice the suggestion of complete independence pointed out to present day footstep followers of Jesus as scriptural and necessary.
Sister Grebe became a fellow-employee, and it was but a short time till Sister Kestner had succeeded in bringing her into a study of God’s Word as made clear by the DAWNS. We five, now all fully consecrated to God, and having publicly signified such fact by water baptism, acknowledging no Head but Jesus, are gladly working in his harvest field at whatsoever our hands find to do under his guidance; and we can with certainty attest that having tasted and seen that God is good, there is no peace or blessedness except in him; and within sound of our Shepherd’s voice there is only gladness.
We have another young student with us now, and we six have been banded together in the Volunteer work this year. God’s blessing has been with us and we have succeeded in reaching all the churches assigned to us, 62 in all, as well as giving our help in other parts of the city after our district was finished. We have received abundant evidence of our Master’s kind approval of our feeble efforts to spread the glorious message of our Redeemer’s second presence and to call his little ones out of Babylon, by the growth in Christian characteristics of love and forbearance, through the experiences while serving the brethren, also in the occasional permission to view some of the good results of our labors.
By the gracious permission of our heavenly Father we were last summer enabled to inaugurate mid-week meetings at my residence (we being so situated that it is not possible to attend the uptown meetings except on Sundays). Each one of our little class can testify to the wonderful help we receive in our daily walk up the narrow way, as a result of following the kindly suggestions which are given in the WATCH TOWER, and it is a sore trial if one of our number misses a meeting.
I close with a prayer for God’s blessing on your every effort, through our blessed Redeemer’s name.
Yours in Christ, JAS. LOCKWOOD, Missouri.