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VOL. XXIV. JUNE 1, 1903. No. 11
The Editor on His European
The Royal Priesthood…………………………164
No Condemnation and No
“The Body is Dead”……………………….171
“Thy Kingdom Come” (Poem)…………………….173
“God Moves in a Mysterious
Public Ministries of the Truth………………..176
Zion’s Glad Songs………………………..162
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THE EDITOR ON HIS EUROPEAN JOURNEY
U.S.M.S. “NEW YORK.”
GREETINGS to “the Children of the Morning”
—of the Dawn—of the Light:—
On board the Steamship “New York” I am nearing Great Britain and the dear brethren there whom I know by correspondence and so dearly love, and whom I hope soon to greet personally. Nevertheless, all the dear readers of the WATCH TOWER are before my mental vision, and I take this opportunity for sending you a message of love and fellowship. It is a source of great pleasure and encouragement to me to realize that your love and prayers are with me on my journey; and I well know that every feature of my experiences will be of interest to you.
Just a week ago (on April 14th) I bade farewell to a goodly company of the Church at the railway depot in Pittsburg. On the previous Sunday I said “Goodbye” to the Church at Allegheny as a whole, shaking hands with about 300 personally; but I was cheered, nevertheless, by the final parting at the train. Next morning I was met at New York depot by representatives of the Churches of New York, Brooklyn, Yonkers, Jersey City, Perth Amboy and Philadelphia, who saw me on board my steamer and tarried until the starting of the vessel,—then from the pier waved me their love and good wishes as they assured me previously that I had their prayers.
I was not so vain as to accept these love-tokens as personal tributes; but received them, on the contrary, as expressions of devotion to the Lord and appreciation of his truth, with which in his providence I had become associated as a servant;—a minister of the Lord, a minister of his Word, a minister of his people. All may be sure that my heart fully reciprocated the kind wishes and blessing accepted from these dear friends, who in a still larger sense represented to me all of the dear WATCH TOWER readers of America who rejoice to send me, with their prayers and love, as their representative for a few weeks to those of like precious faith in Europe.
Our steamer has had a quiet voyage, and in many ways I have been “kept” by divine providence—so that I have had no seasickness since the first two days out, and was able to respond to the invitation of our captain to assist in conducting the usual Sunday morning services of the vessel—including an address of about thirty minutes on the Hope that is the anchor to our souls, both sure and steadfast.—Heb. 6:19.
I had no reason to hope that among the passengers would be many with “an ear to hear”; nor could I expect, in so brief a space, to do more than sound one chord on our precious Harp (the Bible). Committing results to the Lord, I pointed out the great Covenant Promise which our heavenly Father gave to Abraham and his seed: that it was, “In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed”; that the natural seed, Isaac and Jacob and the nation of Israel, held fast the promise but never inherited it; that the true Seed only began to come in the person of the Lord Jesus; that the true Church, the true members of the body of Christ, are members of this “Seed” and heirs according to that original promise which has not yet had its fulfilment, but awaits the completion of the Seed—the completion of “the Church which is his body.” “If ye be Christ’s then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”—Gal. 3:29.
Briefly noting that this is the Christian’s hope of our text, and that it is still unfulfilled, we saw that it is still to be striven for by all who would make their calling and election sure; and that in the light of this
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promise and hope all true Christians should recognize present experiences, trials, etc., as so much of their education in the school of Christ,—in preparation for their work in the coming age—the work of blessing the families of earth during the promised Millennial Kingdom.
Only five of the passengers have had either interest or curiosity sufficient to lead them to converse with me on the subject,—and only two of these with earnestness; but if two or even one should ultimately develop as a ripe grain of “wheat” how glad and thankful we would be. So far as I can ascertain, about one-half of the passengers are professing Christians, and about two-thirds of these Episcopalians—of whom not one has seemed interested. Of the two manifesting interest one is a Baptist, the other a Methodist. A Baptist minister aboard declared himself an Evolutionist and in full sympathy with “higher criticism”—denying that the Lord bought us. When pressed with Scripture he denied the authority of Paul and the other Apostles, and claimed to hold to the life and words of Jesus only. When confronted with our Lord’s own words to the effect that he came to “give his life a ransom for many” he avoided further discussion.
More and more it becomes evident that we are in the great trial-day of the Christian faith, and that it is not so much a question of Who will fall? as of “Who shall be able to stand?” (Rev. 6:17.) The prophet declared, “A thousand shall fall at thy side” (Psa. 91:7), and so we find it. So far from glorying in the evidences that many are falling from the fundamental
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faith, and that many have already fallen, we are pained. Nevertheless, recognizing this as one of the signs of the close of the present dispensation, we can rejoice that the Millennium of blessing will ere long be ushered in;—when dim faith will be swallowed up in the sunlight of truth;—when “the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the whole earth as the waters cover the great deep;” when “the wayfaring man though a fool need not err.”—Isa. 9:11; 35:8.
I seal and mail this when near the British shore, where (Southampton) Brother Henninges is expected to meet me and accompany me to London. Continue to remember me in your prayers, that our Father and Elder Brother may direct our every word and act to his glory and to the profit of our dear brethren on this side of the world—of various tongues but of one spirit—in as well as outside of Babylon.
Faithfully, your brother and servant in the Lord,
CHARLES T. RUSSELL.
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THE ROYAL PRIESTHOOD
“Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. … Ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious, to whom coming as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God and precious, ye also as living stones are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up sacrifices* acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.”—1 Pet. 2:9,3-5
*Sinaitic MS. omits spiritual before sacrifices.
AT no time in the Church’s history has our great Adversary been so active in multiplying false doctrines and in diverting attention from the truth by introducing unprofitable and irrelevant questions as at present. Just when the exaltation and glory of the Church are soon to be accomplished, and when the faithful are about to be received into the joy of their Lord, every device is resorted to to beguile them of their reward and to frustrate this feature of the divine plan. To really frustrate any part of the divine plan is impossible: God has purposed to take out from among men a “little flock,” “a people for his name,” a royal priesthood; and such a company is assuredly being gathered; but whether all those now in the race for the prize will surely be of that company, is still an open question. Take heed, beloved, that no man take thy crown. (Rev. 3:11.) If any come short of their privileges and prove unworthy of the rich inheritance, there are others who will quickly fill their places.
We beseech you, brethren, as you value the glorious hope set before you in the gospel, that you give no heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, as the Apostle terms them (1 Tim. 4:1); but that, with fixedness of purpose, you apply yourselves to the one thing you are called and are privileged to do as prospective members of that Royal Priesthood. Let us never forget that we are a “peculiar people,” separate from the great body of nominal Christians, as well as from the world, having higher hopes, aims and ambitions and favored with a clearer insight into the deep things of God, having been called out of our former darkness into his marvelous light. And if thus separate from the world and from Christians who partake largely of the worldly spirit, what wonder if we find them all out of harmony with us, and either ignoring or opposing us.
Such opposition is to be expected and will, doubtless, continue until we finish our course in death. To submit patiently to this opposition is to sacrifice our own natural preferences for the friendship and the pleasures of the present life, and to endure hardness as good soldiers for the truth’s sake, in whatever shape that hardness may come, in our effort to do the Lord’s will and work of advancing the interests of his Kingdom.
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This is what is meant by the presenting of our bodies living sacrifices in the divine service. To be really in this service involves: first, the careful and continual study of God’s plan; second, the imbibing of its spirit; leading, thirdly, to an enthusiastic zeal for its accomplishment, and to activity to the extent of ability in its service, at whatever cost or sacrifice it may require.
If we are faithful in this service we have no time, nor have we the disposition, to give heed either to false doctrines or to other themes which have no bearing on the one thing to which we have solemnly dedicated our lives. Our time is not our own if we have consecrated all to God; and consequently, we have none to spare for the investigation of fanciful false theories, built upon other foundations than that laid down in the Scriptures; nor have we time to devote to the ideas and pursuits which engross the world’s attention, many of which are harmless in themselves, but would be harmful to us if we were to allow them to occupy consecrated time and to divert our attention from the one thing we ought to be doing. The Apostle warns us “to shun profane babblings, for they will increase unto more ungodliness;” but adds, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.” “Teach no other doctrine: neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions rather than godly edifying which is in faith.”—2 Tim. 2:15,16; 1 Tim. 1:3,4.
Each consecrated believer should ask himself, How carefully have I studied that which I have clearly recognized as divine truth? and how fully capable am I, therefore, of handling the sword of the spirit? Few indeed are those who can say they have fully digested and assimilated all they have received; that they have let none of these things slip from memory; that they have so treasured it up in their hearts that it is their meditation by day and by night; that they have a ready answer—a “Thus saith the Lord”—for every man that asks them a reason for the hope that is in them, concerning any point of doctrine; that they can clearly and intelligently portray the divine plan, quote the divine authority for each successive step of it, and, if need be, point out its place in the divine system of types. To gain such proficiency in the Word is indeed the work of a lifetime; but every day should see a closer approximation to that proficiency, and will, indeed, if we are faithful students and faithful servants of the truth.
If all the consecrated were thus busily engaged putting on the armor of God, and in proving it by actual use in zealous endeavors to herald the truth and to help others to stand, there would indeed be no time left for disputings on the Anglo-Israel question, or whether the earth is a plane instead of a globe, or whether the principles of socialism would be advisable among Christians in the management of their temporal affairs. Nor would there be time for politics, nor even for the good temperance-reform work, nor the work among fallen women, nor among the slums of the great cities, nor even for preaching the doctrine of divine healing. All this is work which can and will be effectually accomplished in “the Times of Restitution,” now in the near future; and, besides, there are others interested in these works (and we are glad of it and bid them Godspeed), while we recognize and seek to accomplish the work set before us in the divine plan. And if, indeed, we have no consecrated time for these things which are only side issues and not harmful in themselves, except as they divert attention and consume valuable time which has been consecrated to another and higher use, surely there is none whatever for giving heed to false doctrines such as so-called Christian Science and the various no-ransom or Evolution theories, all of which are attempts to show men how to climb up to everlasting life by some other way than that which the Scriptures point out; viz., by faith in the precious blood of Christ shed on Calvary for our redemption. He that climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber (John 10:1); and we are commanded to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather to reprove them.—Eph. 5:11.
How narrow this way! say some, contemptuously, of those who, like Paul, devote their energies to the one thing—the service of the truth. Yes, that will be the verdict against you, of all except the few who, like yourself, have carefully sought out this “narrow way,” and who are determined to walk in it, regardless of the reproach it brings. The way to the mark for the prize of our high calling is not wide enough to admit all the vain philosophies and foolish questions and babblings and speculations of science, falsely so called. It is only wide enough to admit the Lord’s plan and those who are willing to discard all other plans and projects and questionings and to devote themselves fully and entirely to its service, and who are quite willing to bear any reproach it may bring.
Consider your calling, brethren, for ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood to offer sacrifices acceptable to God; a holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. The very object of our being called into this light is that we may let it shine. If we do not let it shine we are unworthy of it, and the treasure will be taken away and we will be left in darkness. If indeed
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we have received the light and have consecrated ourselves fully to God, let us ask ourselves. What am I doing to show forth the praises of him who hath called me out of darkness? Am I going forth with these tidings to my neighbors near and far? Am I busy from day to day in seeking to vindicate the divine character, and to make known God’s righteous ways? Am I economizing time and means, and so arranging my temporal affairs as to give as much time as possible to the work? And, then, am I diligently studying to make myself thoroughly familiar with the truth, so that I may indeed be a living epistle known and read of all men within the circle of my influence?—a workman indeed that need not be ashamed? Can I truly affirm that I am
“All for Jesus, all for Jesus—
All my being’s ransomed powers;
All my thoughts, and words, and doings,
All my days and all my hours”?
If so, then we are just narrow-minded enough to say, This one thing I do; and I make everything else bend to this one thing of showing forth God’s praises and helping others into his marvelous light. And to this end I cultivate and use what talents I possess as a wise steward of my heavenly Master.
Dearly beloved, we impose no vows or bondage upon each other, but the call has its own limitations: the Master has directed us, saying, “Go ye and teach all nations [for the gospel is no longer confined to the Jewish nation], baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all things”—concerning our (questionable) Anglo-Israelitish origin? No.—All things concerning the shape of the earth? No.—All the vain philosophies of men who have erred from the truth, and all the subtle sophistries by which they make void the word of God? No.—”Observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.“—Matt. 28:19,20.
This is just what the apostles did. There were plenty of errors and side issues in their day; but, ignoring them, they resolutely devoted themselves to the promulgation of the truth. Paul paid no attention to his fleshly genealogy, because he recognized himself as a new creature in Christ Jesus. It was easier for him to prove his fleshly origin as an Israelite than for any of us to do it; but he cared nothing for that. He did not care whether he was of the ten tribes or of the two tribes; for he had on none of the tribal righteousness of the Law. His only ambition was to be found “in Christ, not having on his own righteousness, which is of the Law, but that which is through the faith of Christ—the righteousness which is of God by faith.” (Phil. 3:9.) He says (verses 3-7), “We [new creatures in Christ] are the [real] circumcision, which worship God in spirit and rejoice in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh [or the fleshly relationships], though indeed I have had confidence also in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I had more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the Law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the Church; touching the righteousness which is of the Law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.”
Hear him again in his zeal for this one thing to which he had devoted his life: “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the mystery of God; for I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and him crucified. [I riveted your attention on this one thing! I kept this one thing continually before you.] And my speech and my preaching were not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the spirit and power [of the truth], that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”—1 Cor. 2:1-5.
Paul was a plain uncompromising teacher. When he knew he had the truth, he spoke it with confidence, and boldly declared that everything contrary to it was false doctrine; and he taught his disciples that it was not only their privilege, but their duty also, to be established in the faith and to know, on the evidence of God’s Word, why they believed, and to be able to give to every man that inquired for it a reason for the hope that was in them.
There is among Christians today a great lack of established faith on any point of doctrine. They say, “I think,” “I hope,” or “Perhaps it may be so, but this is only my opinion, and it may be right or it may be wrong. I have charity, however, for your opposing opinion, and for every man’s opinion; for who knows which is right? I’m sure I cannot say; but, nevertheless, I have great faith and charity (?). I shake hands with every body and call him brother if he claims to be a Christian, no matter what he believes and teaches, whether he is pointing to Christ as the door to the sheepfold, or whether he is trying to teach men how to climb up some other way. In Christian love I bid them all Godspeed and pray for the success of all their teachings, no matter how antagonistic they may be to each other or to the Scriptures as I read them.”
All this passes among Christians generally for large-hearted benevolence and personal humility, while in fact it is an ignoble, compromising spirit that is unwilling to forego the friendship of those who oppose
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the Lord by opposing the truth; and which would rather see the truth suffer, and those weak in the faith stumbled, than that they should bear the reproach of Christ. Those who have real and sincere faith in God are willing to take him at his word; and with these the first principles of the doctrine should long ago have been established; much of the superstructure of gold and silver and precious stones should already be erected, and the work be steadily progressing. Such are able, if they are loyal and true to God, to discern between truth and error. The Apostle John, recognizing this ability, says, “If there come any unto you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him Godspeed; for he that biddeth him Godspeed is partaker of his evil deeds.” (2 John 10.) We ought to know what we believe and why we believe it, and then should be bold and uncompromising in declaring it; for “if the trumpet give an uncertain sound who shall prepare himself to the battle?”
Again says the Apostle (1 Cor. 2:6-10), “However, we speak wisdom among them that are perfect [developed; we are not to cast our pearls before swine]; yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes [the popular leaders and teachers] of this world, that come to naught. But we speak the wisdom of God, which was hidden in a mystery, which God ordained before the world unto our glory; which none of the princes of this world knew. … Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his spirit; for the spirit [or mind of God in us, is so anxious to know his truth, that it] searcheth all things; yea, the deep things of God.”
The princes of this world do know something of astronomy and geology, and have their ideas of the shape of the earth, etc., but they have not known this hidden wisdom of the divine plan, which maps out a destiny so glorious to the faithful saints who will constitute the royalty of the age to come. Let the world speculate as it may about its own themes of interest, but let us devote ourselves to the one thing in hand, avoiding foolish questions and genealogies and contentions, … for they are unprofitable and vain. (Titus 3:9.) Let us be faithful to our commission to preach this gospel to the meek who are ready to hear it. (Isa. 61:1.) Let the bride of Christ be diligent in making herself ready (Rev. 19:7), for the marriage of the Lamb is the event of the very near future.
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NO CONDEMNATION AND NO SEPARATION
—ROM. 8:1-14.—MAY 31.—
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”
THE chapter of which this lesson forms a part is unquestionably one of the most precious in the entire Bible. It begins with the assurance that condemnation has passed, and concludes with logical proofs of everlasting divine favor toward those who become “New Creatures” in Christ Jesus. In the preceding chapter the Apostle specially points out condemnation and imprisonment upon the whole race of Adam as sinners under the divine Law—and especially upon the Jew, additionally under the Mosaic Law. He points out the utter hopelessness of those who attempt to escape the penalty of death by self-justification through “works of the Law.” After thus showing the bondage of all, he points to the door of salvation—the redemption in our Lord Jesus: saying, “I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” It is to this class, which gets the victory through Christ, that there is no condemnation, and can be no separation from the divine love and favor, so long as they abide in him as the branch in the Vine.
This lesson is well fitted in, as giving us a glimpse of the Apostle’s spiritual liberty and relationship to God at the time of his imprisonment at Caesarea. Once he had had his liberty according to the flesh, and in his ignorance and blindness had done many things contrary to the Lord, not properly appreciating his liberty
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nor knowing how to use it aright. Now, although a prisoner and outwardly restrained, he had gained great liberty and blessing, and also freedom from divine condemnation, with assurance of hope toward God, not only respecting the present life, but also the one to come.
In the first verse the word “therefore” carries us back to the preceding argument, and shows us that our freedom from present condemnation is the result of our Lord’s sacrifice on our behalf. (Rom. 7:25.) It is because we appreciate the fact that justice provided a redemption price for our sins, and because we have availed ourselves of the terms offered its beneficiaries, that we realize that the condemnation of the divine Law no longer holds as against us. In his preceding argument the Apostle had clearly shown that the difficulty did not lie in the Law itself; that God could not give an imperfect or, in any sense, an evil Law. The Law was just, perfect and good; the difficulty was in us, that through the inheritance of sin and its weaknesses we were unable fully to comply with the requirements of the divine Law. How, then, do we escape its condemnation?
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The Apostle answers that we reached the present standpoint of release—freedom from condemnation—when we came into Christ. Others, out of Christ, are still under the condemnation. It is an important question, therefore, for each to decide for himself, whether or not he has taken the step which alone can bring him into this happy condition. The Apostle, in a previous chapter (5:1), marks the first step out of condemnation and into Christ as being justification, which brought peace with God, the covering of the sins that were past; but this was not enough, for if all the sins that were past were cancelled, and no arrangement was made for our daily imperfections of word and deed, we would quickly be again condemned. Hence, to those who would be entirely freed from condemnation, another step was necessary—a step into Christ. These two steps should not be confounded; it is one thing to get out of responsibility for past sins, and quite another step to get into Christ, and under the full covering of his merits as respects all the remainder of life. The two steps are mentioned in Rom. 5:1,2: faith in the redemption brings justification from past sins and peace with God; but by it also, as the Apostle explains, we have access into this grace (the favor of sonship, membership in the body of Christ) wherein we stand, rejoicing in hope of the glory of God (because glory and honor and immortality are promised to every member of the New Creation—every member of the body of Christ).
The last clause of this verse, “who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit,” is properly omitted by the Revised Version, because not found in ancient MSS. The thought, however, is correct enough, and these very words are found in the conclusion of verse 4. The words do not properly apply in verse 1, for that describes those who are in Christ, as members of his body, and none are counted as in him except those who are walking after the spirit—not after the flesh.
The Apostle calls our attention (vs. 2) to two laws in operation. We were under one of these, which sentenced us, as sinners, to death. We got out from under that law entirely when we got into Christ Jesus, as members of his body. Our Redeemer kept the Law, was blameless; then gave his blameless life as a redemption price to purchase us who had been the slaves of sin and death from that slavery. We were redeemed by his precious blood. As he was raised to a new nature by the Father’s power, we now are invited to become associates with him in that new nature—to be counted in as members of his body, under him as the Head. The whole transaction is one of faith; faith first in his sacrifice, and God’s acceptance of it, and our justification thereby. Secondly, faith in our call to membership in his body; faith that our consecration in response to that call made us acceptable with the Father and recorded our names in the Lamb’s book of life as children of God upon this new plane. All who can realize that they have taken these two steps may, therefore, realize that from God’s standpoint they are no longer thought of nor treated as members of the human family, but as members of the new order—members of the body of Christ.
Hence, they may realize themselves as entirely freed from the condemnation that was against them as human beings, and as having come under a new law, a new arrangement, which in Christ guarantees them life everlasting. The new law judges us as new creatures in Christ, according to the spirit, the mind, the intention, in righteousness, and not as human beings, according to the flesh and its weaknesses and imperfections.
The Law of God,—strict justice without mercy,—represented in the Mosaic Law and its covenant, could not help the weak, fallen race, because the easiest requirement it could make would be perfection toward God and toward men, and our race being fallen was unable to comply with its demands. It was, therefore, “weak” (powerless) for our deliverance, because we were weak on account of the imperfect, fallen flesh. But God, through Christ, made an arrangement for us which does not violate his own Law—sending his Son to accomplish our redemption—the payment of our penalty. God’s Son was not sent in sinful flesh, but “in the likeness,” or nature of our flesh, which had become sinful,—he, the while, being holy, harmless, separate from sinners. The object of his coming in our likeness is set forth; viz., as an offering for sin—a sin-offering and atonement-sacrifice on our behalf.
This course in no sense of the word justified sin—in no degree made sin right, or declared it proper. On the contrary, the very means which God adopted for our relief, at the same time “condemned sin in the flesh.” Thus at the same time that the door of salvation was opened to us we were most emphatically assured that there was no hope in any other direction.
Notwithstanding the great clearness and explicitness with which this doctrine of the necessity for a sacrifice for sins is set forth in the Scriptures,—in the Old Testament as well as in the New—it seems remarkable that some still stumble over it. There is no avoiding the conviction that there is something wrong with their hearts, else their heads would not thus become confused respecting a matter which is so explicitly set forth in the Word. The Apostle points out that it was so with the Jews as a nation. They stumbled over the cross of Christ;—they then admitted and still acknowledge that Jesus was a great Teacher. Rabbis all over
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the world today are claiming Jesus as a great Jew, whose teachings have blessed the world in great measure. Their dispute is with the cross of Christ,—that they were sinners who have no way of escape except through an atonement on their behalf, and that Christ’s death constituted the sin-offering, through faith in which alone any may become acceptable to God—justified. The same objection exists in the heart of the natural man who is not a Jew. He prefers to climb up some other way, rather than to go through the door; he would use the teachings of Jesus as a ladder to get into the sheepfold; but declines to enter through him as a door, and to acknowledge himself condemned of God and irretrievably lost, except as the great sacrifice for sins and the merit of the Redeemer are applied on his behalf. Nevertheless, those who refuse God’s way will find that it is unalterable, and that “there is none other name given under heaven or amongst men whereby we must be saved.” Those who will not enter by this door, those who will not accept the forgiveness of their sins through the merit of Christ’s sacrifice, cannot have the divine favor, cannot be considered members of the body of Christ nor heirs with him—they are not in Christ Jesus—they are yet in their sins, because they believe not God’s testimony. Some are now in this attitude who were once in the light of truth on this subject; who once had on the wedding garment, but took it off—rejected the robe of Christ’s righteousness, and are attempting to stand before God in their own righteousness, merely accepting Jesus as a Teacher and not as a Redeemer. We consider the condition of such to be most dangerous. We cannot feel sure that they will ever have an opportunity to accept again the merit of the precious blood which they once enjoyed and spurned, “counting the blood of the covenant [the death of Jesus] wherewith they were [once] sanctified an unholy [common] thing,” thus doing despite unto the spirit of grace—despising, disdaining, repudiating the favor of divine forgiveness through the blood. So rejecting the Redeemer, they take their cases out of the hands of the Mediator of the New Covenant. Thus they fall at once into the hands of the living God, and are subject to the full requirements of the absolute Law without mercy—because all of God’s mercy extended to sinners is in and through him who loved us and bought us with his own precious blood. We do not say that all who reject the blood of the covenant do so thus to their everlasting loss, but are glad to believe, on the contrary, that many of them have been so blinded by the god of this world that they have never seen clearly and, hence, never rejected entirely the blood-bought robe of righteousness. For all such we shall expect that the light of the new dispensation will show them the divine plan clearly, and we shall trust that many of them will be ready humbly to accept God’s grace upon his own terms.
The Apostle points out (vs. 4) that this Law of the spirit of life in which we as new creatures in Christ rejoice is really the same Law that once condemned us—that the change from condemnation to death to justification to life signifies no change in the Law, but a change in our position. It is a law of life to us, because, by God’s grace through Christ, we have come into a place where we are able to comply with the requirements of the Law and to fulfill them. It is not our flesh that has been changed, so that it is perfect and able to obey the Law, but that as New Creatures the flesh is reckoned dead, and we are reckoned according to the spirit or mind; and with our minds, or spirits, or wills, we are able to keep God’s Law perfectly—that is to say, we can will to do right, we can endeavor to do right, we can strive to please God, and so long as God accepts
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the will, the intention, the endeavor, and ignores our flesh and its uncontrollable weaknesses, that long we can realize that the divine Law approves us; and that will be just so long as we abide in our present position as members of the body of Christ, and we are privileged to remain members of the body of Christ just so long as our desires are for righteousness and in opposition to sin. The New Creature does not love sin, but, instead, loves righteousness, the very reverse. If the will, the heart, should turn again, so as to love unrighteousness, so as to desire to do the things that are contrary to the Lord’s will, it would mean that we had died as New Creatures, and become alive again as fleshly creatures, to mind the things of the flesh, to have its hopes, its aims and its objects. In that case we should come again under the law of sin and death, and be judged again according to the flesh, the sentence, as before, being, “The wages of sin is death.” Moreover, such a turning, as a sow to wallowing in the mire, and as a dog to his vomit, would, in the case of those who have become New Creatures in Christ and so passed out of Adamic death, mean the Second Death—the result of their own wilful rejection of God’s favor through Christ, which they spurn after having once enjoyed. It will be seen, then, that there are two ways of rejecting God’s grace; one by turning to sin (not merely by being overcome of the weaknesses of the flesh temporarily, but by a deliberate choosing of sin, and intentional abandonment of righteousness); the other by a mental rejection of the conditions of favor—a mental repudiation of the blood of the New Covenant. These two forms of committing the sin unto death—unto Second Death—are clearly set before us by the Apostle in Heb. 6:4-6; 10:26-31.
There is force, then, in the Apostle’s explicit definition of the class justified under the Law of the spirit
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of life—that it is those who are in Christ, and who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit—who are not seeking to satisfy the cravings, appetites and desires of the flesh, but are seeking to control these, and to keep them in subjection to the new mind, to their utmost ability. Walking after the spirit does not necessarily mean walking up to the spirit. Only the Lord Jesus could walk up to the spirit of the perfect Law of God; but all the members of his body, all who are in Christ Jesus, may walk after the spirit—as nearly up to it as may be possible for them to do. Such a walk is acceptable to God, in the case of all those who are abiding in Christ, through faith in his blood. If, by reason of weaknesses of the flesh, through an unfavorable heredity, they be very degraded and weak, and able merely to hobble along with difficulty and slowness after the spirit, they are nevertheless counted as though they walked up to the spirit perfectly. In other words, God’s arrangement for accepting the will, the intention, of the members of the body of Christ, instead of their actual performances, meets every requirement, and justifies freely, fully, completely, all who are in Christ—not one of whom could have been justified by the Law under the Jewish covenant or otherwise.
The Apostle answers a supposed question as to how we may know those who are New Creatures in Christ and walking after the spirit, from others. This is a difficult question. There are some not in Christ whose flesh is much less depraved than that of some who are in Christ; hence, if they were measured by the deeds of the flesh, the one in Christ might appear to less advantage than the one out of Christ. The Lord, therefore, exhorts his people to judge not by outward appearance merely, assuring them that some are hypocritical, and that God looketh on the heart, the intention. So again the Apostle enjoins us, saying, “Henceforth know we no man after the flesh.” He did not mean that we should pay no attention to the shortcomings of the flesh, either in ourselves or in other members of the body. All fleshly weaknesses should be striven against, and they may frequently demand rigorous treatment in the interest of the New Creature; but, nevertheless, we are to distinctly differentiate between the New Creature and his weak mortal body, and are to love and sympathize with the brother, while it may be necessary for us, in his interest, and also in the interest of the Church, to reprove or rebuke or otherwise correct his wrong course. The Apostle’s definition of how we are to know the two classes apart is (vs. 5) that the unregenerate will mind the things of the flesh, while the regenerate will mind the things of the spirit. There is a great gulf fixed between these two classes, and there should be no need that any one should long be in doubt on the subject of whether he is or is not a member of the Church, the body of Christ. If he is in Christ he has the new ambitions, the new hopes, the new aims, and however short he may at times come of realizing these aims and ambitions, his heart being right it will always revert to the divine standard. His affections are for the things that are just and pure and good, however he may find the law of sin and death assailing him, through the weaknesses of his mortal body. He is not to be content with merely this condition of mental preference for the right and having his heart solicitous for righteousness, experiencing grief if he finds himself overcome by temptation; but, as the Apostle elsewhere enjoins, he is to be so deeply in earnest about the matter that he will not only do his best to right every wrong, but will continue seeking for grace at the heavenly throne, that he may be more and more able to overcome, that he may grow stronger and stronger in spirit, and that the power of his flesh may be correspondingly weakened. The Apostle exhorts such to make straight paths for their feet, for their weaknesses, for their lameness, according to the flesh—to avoid the ways of temptation and weakness as they discover them, and thus show their hearts’ desires for righteousness. He urges again that all keep continually setting their affections on things above, so that the things of the earth may have less and less influence and control over them to hinder them in their course. He urges that the heart, the mind, the lips, the conduct, that are filled with the Lord’s truth and service, will be thus sanctified and separated so that the Wicked One will find less and less opportunity to take the advantage.
The matter is set forth in still different terms in vss. 6,7. We are to distinguish the mind of the flesh from the mind that is in accord with God, for the one is at enmity with God and the other in harmony with him. The mind that is in harmony with God finds delight in his Law, in righteousness, purity, goodness, peace, faith, through the promises of God, and looks forward with joy to the glorious realization of all the wonderful hopes inspired through those promises. The fleshly mind (however polite or polished or well educated and decorous and under control of the mortal body) is not in accord with God; it has its own ambitions, its own plans, and takes pleasure in these, and is grieved if they are thwarted; builds its hopes and aims chiefly upon what can be attained in this present life; is not in accord with God, nor disposed to accept with gratitude whatever he may be pleased to send; but rather is full of choice and self-will—not subject to divine control, nor can it be, because it is fleshly, and because, at the present time, all mankind is in a state of sin, alienation from God, etc. These two conditions of mind are contrasted, and the Apostle assures us that
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the one is death; that it means death; means that the person who has that mind is still in the death condition, has not received Christ as the Life-giver. “He that hath the Son hath life,” and may have, too, a joy and peace of the new mind in Christ; but he who has not the Son, he who has not surrendered his will, is still in death, still under condemnation, still an alien from God.
This does not mean that those whom we are unable to bring now under the scope of the gospel of Christ may never become amenable to it. It does not mean, either, that the flesh itself is opposed to God, and God opposed to the flesh. The word “flesh” here is used in the sense of sinful flesh, because all mankind, through the fall, has become sinful. Originally, however, as represented in Father Adam before the fall, the flesh was pronounced very good, and God’s own workmanship, in his own image, was not opposed to the Law of God, but in full accord with it. The divine Law was written in the very organism of our first parents; the difficulty is that through the fall this divine Law has been very considerably obliterated, and instead the law of selfishness—which includes all evil—has been engraven upon the hearts of their posterity. Hence the proposition of the Lord for the world is that he will restore all mankind to that primeval condition, for which times of restitution have been provided and promised by the mouth of all the holy prophets. (Acts 3:19-21.) It is in full accord with this that the Lord, speaking of the operation of the New Covenant, declares that under it (Christ being the minister of that New Covenant and its administrator during the time of its operation) he will take away the stony heart of selfishness, and will make a new heart of flesh, tender, sympathetic, generous, God-like. In other words, he will re-write in the organism of mankind, by the processes of the Millennial age,—the times of restitution,—all the original character and God-likeness and law which he possessed as originally created. When perfection shall have thus been accomplished for so many as will receive the Lord’s favor on his terms of love and hearty obedience, it will no longer be true that the mind of the flesh will be at enmity with God, as it was not true originally, when Adam was in accord with God.
To understand the Apostle it must be kept clearly in mind that he is writing these words, not to the world nor about the world, but to the saints and about the saints. He is describing the condition of those who have passed from death unto life, who have become New Creatures, contrasting them with the world, still
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in sin and divine disfavor. They that are in the flesh, living according to their own wills, who have not heard, or, hearing, have not accepted God’s grace in Christ, cannot please God, cannot be said to be acquitted, cannot be considered as under divine favor.
Turning to the Church, the Apostle points out, “Ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be that the spirit of God dwelleth in you.” The Apostle here indicates what it is that constitutes us New Creatures. We are New Creatures because begotten again; because begotten of the spirit of God. We were not thus begotten until first we had been justified by faith in the blood of Christ, and then had heard the invitation to present our bodies living sacrifices, and then had complied with that invitation and consecrated our all upon the Lord’s altar. Then we received the spirit of God; then we were recognized as New Creatures in Christ—as no longer flesh beings, but as spirit beings.
Here, then, is the test. Those who have the spirit of Christ must have been begotten to it; those who have not the spirit of Christ are not his. Thus we are to judge ourselves, and thus we are to judge of the brethren—by the spirit, the intention, the will, and not by the success, not by the flesh. Oh, how generous this would make us in our judging of the brethren! If they profess and give any evidence of loving the Lord, trusting in the precious blood, loving holy things, loving the brethren, loving the word of grace and truth, and of seeking to develop the fruits of the spirit, they are surely brethren, surely “in Christ.” If they have not this spirit, love the world, prefer worldly company, give themselves wholly to worldly ambitions, pride of life and self-gratification, we have strong reason to doubt their relationship to the Lord, no matter what they may profess. And this feature of the matter should be especially applied by each one of us to himself, as an individual test of his relationship to the Lord, and each one who finds the spirit of worldliness growing upon him should feel that he is losing ground, should seek afresh to set his affection on things above and to grow in grace.
“THE BODY IS DEAD”
The Apostle explains that in the case of these New Creatures in Christ, from the divine standpoint the body is treated as dead, but the spirit, or mind, is treated as alive. It is the New Creature which God recognizes, to which he purposes to give a new spirit-body in due time—in the first resurrection. It is necessary that this thought be clearly fixed in our minds, in order that we may continually realize our peace toward God and his favor and sympathy toward us in Christ. If we lose sight of the fact that God regards us from the standpoint of the will, if we get to thinking of ourselves and God’s estimate of us as according to the flesh, we are sure to get proportionately into darkness and confusion and discouragement. But let us not forget, on the other hand, that the spirit, or will, is counted alive
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because of its righteousness, because it is in harmony with God. Let us, therefore, never be slack in respect to the will, or intention, governing the conduct of our lives, but remember that any laxity will mean the proportionate loss of spiritual life. To will right is always possible to us, and nothing less than an absolutely loyal will could be acceptable to God in Christ.
However, as the Apostle explains in vs. 11, if God’s spirit animates us, the result will surely be that these bodies which we reckon dead, and which God graciously reckons dead, will be so quickened, so energized, so controlled by the new mind, the holy mind, the spirit of our new nature, that they will become actively “quickened”—toward righteousness, toward the service of the Lord, the service of the truth—in doing good unto all men as we have opportunity, especially to the household of faith. This is only what we should expect, too, for the spirit of God is powerful in whatever way it be applied. As an illustration of its power, the Apostle points us to our Lord Jesus and his literal death, and how God’s holy spirit raised Jesus from the dead in his resurrection. The thought is that this power of God thus exercised on behalf of the Lord Jesus, and which he promises so to exercise in the close of this age on behalf of all the faithful members of the body of Christ, indicates a power of God by which, if we avail ourselves of it, the new nature will find strength to conquer, to keep the flesh under, and, more than this, to make it active, energetic in the service of righteousness. The Apostle is not here speaking of the future resurrection of the just—the completion of the first resurrection as spirit beings. He is speaking of the figurative resurrection, which the Lord’s consecrated people experience in this present time. As he elsewhere expresses it, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above;” and again, “You hath he quickened [made alive, resurrected figuratively] who were dead in trespasses and sins, … and hath raised us up together, and made us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”—Col. 3:1; Eph. 2:1,6.
The sum of the matter, then, is that we who are New Creatures find that we do not owe anything as New Creatures to the flesh; that all of our advantages and blessings have come to us along other lines. We ought, therefore, to ignore the flesh and its desires and appetites, and ought to walk as strictly after the spirit as possible in all of our affairs. Do we ask why? One answer is here given (vs. 13), “If ye live after the flesh ye shall die.” We who have received the grace of God, who have heard of his mercy and love, and have been accepted in the Beloved, have counted all our earthly interests as sacrifices, that we might have share with Christ in the sufferings of this present time and in the glory that shall follow. For us to live after the flesh would mean to die in the most absolute sense—the Second Death—because we have had the full benefit of the ransom already imputed to us. There is hope for the world, which knows, as yet, comparatively little or nothing of the grace of God, which has not tasted, has not seen, etc.—there is hope for the members of this class that under the Kingdom rule they will be caused to see clearly, and may then respond obediently to the divine arrangement; but if we sin wilfully after that we have received a knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins for us—therefore, there would remain no future hope for us. But, on the other hand, let us hope that few of those who have accepted the grace of God are disposed to draw back unto perdition; but are rather disposed to go on and to secure the end of their faith,—glory, honor and immortality, joint heirship in the Kingdom. To us who are thus minded the Apostle’s words are encouraging, when he says, “If ye, through the spirit, do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” The condition upon which we may continue our relationship to the Lord, and our hope for a share in the glories of the first resurrection are thus definitely stated to include mortification of the deeds of the body—restraining the fleshly inclinations, putting them to death, crucifying them, using them up in the service of the Lord and his cause. Such mortification of the deeds of the body, such a battle against the weaknesses of the flesh, is what the Apostle elsewhere speaks of as the “warfare,” when he tells us that the flesh warreth against the spirit, and the spirit in turn warreth against the flesh, for the two are contrary, and will be opponents to the end of life; and if the spirit has been willing, and has fought to the best of its ability against the weaknesses of the flesh, the Lord will count the victory complete, through the merit of the Redeemer.
We are not to think of this as being the warfare of a fleshly will against a spiritual will, nor the battling of the old nature against the new nature. These are erroneous conceptions, not in accord with the Scriptural delineations. We cannot have two wills and yet be in Christ. We cannot serve two masters. The matter must be decided—it must be settled before we are accepted to membership in the body of Christ. Hence it is, that a full consecration of all that we have and are is necessary to membership in Christ. Henceforth there is only the one will, the will of Christ. As for the will of the flesh, we do not own it to be ours; we ignore it, we oppose it—we are the New Creatures; the will of the flesh and, in general, the flesh, are contrary, and thus reckoned by the Lord as well as by us as dead; we must keep the body under—keep it dead; we must not allow a fleshly will to assert itself in us. This does not mean that we can hinder a fleshly desire, but
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there is a vast difference between a desire and a will. Our flesh may desire various things which we believe the will of God would oppose, but our wills will not consent. Even though through weakness of the flesh an error might have been committed, the will could not have consented so long as it was loyal to the Lord. The new will may have fallen temporarily into a stupor and so have come under the power of the flesh for a time, but as surely as it was the new will it never consented to sin and never approved of it.
This, then, is the guide by which we may know our true position, not only at the beginning of the race, but to the end of it; viz., if we are led by the spirit of God—if that is the direction in which we are following, if that is what we are seeking—then we are sons of God; he owns and accepts all who have come unto him through Christ, and who are trusting in the merit of the wedding garment, and who continue in this attitude of heart. These will continue to be owned of the Lord as sons to the end of the present journey, to the end of the present time of sacrifice; and beyond he will own them as his sons in the first resurrection, giving them the suitable spirit bodies he has promised them.—Rom. 8:14; 2 Tim. 2:11,12; 1 John 3:2.
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“THY KINGDOM COME!”
“For as the earth bringeth forth the bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.”—Isa. 61:11
Thy Kingdom come! Give ear, O King of ages!
This earnest prayer is knocking at thy door;
The Church of God with one accord engages
In hopeful pleading till the night is o’er.
Thy Kingdom come! We wait the promised glory
That, like the sea, embraces every shore.
We wait the time proclaimed in psalm and story,
When strife shall cease and nations war no more.
Thy Kingdom come, and bring its feast of gladness
To groaning creatures wasted by despair;
To dry all faces with the breath of gladness,
And soothe our sorrows with thy love and care.
Thy Kingdom come! To darkened minds revealing
The blissful springs of gratitude and praise.
Come, Sun of righteousness, with beams of healing;
Dispense thy light in universal rays.
Thy Kingdom come! O, haste the Bride’s appearing;
Let every soul her wand of healing feel,—
While all the ransomed of the Lord, revering,
Adore Jehovah, and in homage kneel.
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“GOD MOVES IN A MYSTERIOUS WAY”
—ACTS 27:33-44—JUNE 7—
“Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses.”—Psa. 107:6
NOT long after Paul’s discourse before Festus and Agrippa, opportunity offered for sending him a prisoner to Rome, in accordance with his own appeal. He was not sent alone, but in company with other prisoners and under a strong guard. The journey from Caesarea to Rome was by water on merchant vessels, and was probably in the fall of the year, when the storms on the Mediterranean are frequently very severe, sometimes lasting for several days, as in the case mentioned in this lesson. The storm lasted for fourteen days, and was evidently unusually severe. The dangerous season for navigation was reckoned from September 14 to November 14, at which time all navigation in the open sea was suspended for the winter. It is presumed that this storm occurred about September 25.
Doubtless, were we able to look at affairs from God’s standpoint, as we will be able to view them by and by, we should see more reason than we now are able to discern why the Apostle’s journey to Rome should have been attended with such trying experiences, mental and physical, as were incidental to the shipwreck, wintering on the island of Malta, etc. Possibly the Apostle’s faith was being tried; possibly it was being rooted and grounded by these experiences. The Lord had distinctly informed him in a vision that he should go to Rome as his ambassador. He was now on the way, and on several occasions matters looked serious; it seemed as though he would never see the capital of the world; never have the privilege of presenting the truth to the brethren residing there, to whom he had already sent the Epistle to the Romans; never have the opportunity of laboring in their midst, as he had hoped and promised to do.
When in port at Crete a conference was held respecting the wisdom of wintering there or of going on, and the Apostle gave his opinion that it would be unsafe to go on. This may have been the result of some inspiration, but quite possibly was merely the result of his own judgment of the weather, etc. He had already had large experience in seeing disasters, as we are informed in one of his epistles written previous to this time: “Thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep.” (2 Cor. 11:25.) Besides, his trade as a sail-maker would naturally bring him in contact with sailors, and interest him in all matters pertaining to the craft. Those in command, however, decided to proceed on the journey, and encountered the disastrous storm of our lesson. During those fourteen days the Apostle had
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abundant opportunity to fear and doubt and question the Lord’s providences, and apparently it was not until the night of the thirteenth day of the storm that the Lord sent an angel to the Apostle, with the consoling message that he should not fear—”Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar; and lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.” (Vs. 24.) We may safely assume that the Apostle, during these testing days, remained heartily loyal in faith toward God, and that this message at the close was in the nature of an encouragement and an expression of approval.
We may draw a good lesson from this incident, not only in respect to our own affairs in life,—that the Lord may lead in mysterious ways regarding our temporal matters and our service for him and his cause;—but we may additionally apply the lesson in a general way to all spiritual testings and trials. The Lord gives us, for instance, assurances of his love and care, and of the ultimate outcome of the narrow way to all who faithfully follow in the steps of Jesus; but meantime he may permit trials and difficulties of various kinds to come as storms upon us, threatening our very destruction, threatening the overwhelming of our spiritual life, darkening the sky of our hopes with the thunderclouds of our enemies’ threats and Satan’s roarings. Our duty is to let the eye of faith be undimmed by these various terrible conditions,—to let our hearts be firmly fixed upon him who has promised, and who is able also to perform. Thus,
“When the storms of life are raging,
Tempests wild on sea and land,
I will seek a place of refuge
In the shadow of God’s hand.
“Enemies may strive to injure,
Satan all his arts employ;
God will turn what seems to harm me
Into everlasting joy.”
The expression, “God hath given thee all them that sail with thee,” is very meaningful. It reminds us of Abraham’s prayer for Sodom—peradventure there were even five righteous persons, God agreed to save the city. There is no suggestion in these words of the “fatherhood of God, and brotherhood of men,” as that false teaching is now advocated by many who have a noble impulse. The thought, on the contrary, is that there was only one man on that ship who was in personal relationship to God. The others, whatever their natural traits of character, had never come into personal relationship with the Father. Another thought from the words is that the divine care going with the saints may prove a great blessing to their companions, even though, as in this case, they be worldly and unregenerate. This thought is particularly applicable in the earthly families of God’s people. The believing consecrated father or mother is the direct subject of divine care; for of the angels it is written, “They are ministering spirits, sent forth to minister unto those who shall be heirs of salvation,” and, in ministering to these, very frequently (indeed, we may suppose generally) those of their families who have not come into full relationship with the Lord are to some extent included under the protecting care. Elsewhere the Apostle points out that in some respects the believing wife has a blessed influence over her husband; or the believing husband a favorable influence over the wife in regard to the children, else the children would be accounted unholy. (1 Cor. 7:14.) This is another illustration of the same general lesson that divine care, though specially for the saints, includes all of their interests of every kind. This does not necessarily imply earthly prosperity, wealth, preservation from accident, shipwreck, etc., as in Paul’s case, and yet it does always mean, in some sense and in some degree, an advantage. Let us take from this thought all the comfort we can. All things shall work together for good to the Lord’s saints, and those who are nearest and dearest to them will surely be participants to some extent in their interest and in the divine care.
Promptly after receiving the assurances of the safety of all on board, the Apostle made the matter known to the ship’s company, and manifested his own faith in the message by cheerfulness and breaking of his fast, and advising all the others to do likewise. His spirit was contagious; they were all cheered, and doubtless they were all impressed not only by the fact to which the Apostle called their attention—namely, that this disaster had come upon them by their failing
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to follow his advice—but also by the evidence of God’s special favor toward him in connection with the knowledge of their ultimate rescue. So it should be with us: whatever we know that is good or comforting or refreshing to ourselves, we should dispense to others. Had the Apostle kept this good news to himself, it would have implied one of two things; either that he did not have faith in its fulfilment, or that he was selfish; but having the Lord’s spirit of generosity, as well as large trust in the Lord, he did not hesitate to make known the coming deliverance; and he glorified God in that he did not claim to have this knowledge of himself, but credited it to a revelation. Evidently the prisoner had produced a deep impression upon many of the soldiers and sailors. Who can say that at some future time the Apostle’s brave and noble conduct may not have influenced some of his two hundred and seventy-six companions—possibly eventually drawing some of them to the Lord? So it should be with each of us; we should be prompt to tell to others the best tidings we have; sympathy with the groaning creation in the
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various trials of life should lead us to point to the Lord’s promises respecting the coming Kingdom and the blessings that should then be to all the families of the earth. Whoever does not thus proclaim daily, on every suitable opportunity, gives evidence either of lack of knowledge or of faith in the revelation or of selfishness, which the Lord can not approve, and which, persisted in, will ultimately debar him from a share in the Kingdom.
Another thought properly connected with this lesson is the absence of any suggestion of a revival service being held on board the boat. Neither Paul nor Luke nor Aristarchus are reported to have made the slightest effort, except as their lives were living epistles. It is barely possible that religious services may not have been permitted on the vessel; but, anyway, we know from the Apostle’s general course of conduct, that he did his fishing for men amongst rather different classes. As we understand the matter, the seamen of that day were of a coarse and ignorant class. We cannot doubt that the Apostle would have been glad indeed to have served any of his companions had he found in them the hearing ear—according to the Master’s words, “He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear.” That the sailors were not in a condition to receive or appreciate the gospel is evident from the lesson; because they were selfishly intent upon using the only small boat available for their escape, and premeditated leaving the soldiers and the prisoners on the vessel. We mark the spirit of selfishness as totally unbecoming in anyone begotten of the spirit of God, and contrast it with the spirit of the Apostle, as generous, loving, considerate of others. A similar test shows us that the soldiers in general were not of a class likely to have a hearing ear, because, when perceiving that the vessel would go to pieces, and that thus some prisoners might escape, they counselled their destruction. “The liberal heart deviseth liberal things,” and all of the Lord’s consecrated people should not only have the noble impulses coming to them because they are the Lord’s and because they have tasted of his grace, and been made partakers of his spirit, but, additionally, they should see to it that this spirit prevails in them; that it is manifest in all the affairs of life. They should see to it that they do not crush out the noble impulses which would properly come to them; that, on the contrary, they foster them and encourage them and develop them more and more. Thus we grow in grace as we grow in knowledge, by obedience to the things which we learn.
The centurion alone seems to have profited by the experiences. He alone seems to have read the Apostle’s living epistle to any advantage, and upon him it did make an impression, for while he would not have objected so much to the killing of the other prisoners, who probably were seditious characters and worthy of death, he saw no way to make an exception of Paul, and for Paul’s sake, therefore, all the prisoners’ lives were spared.
Notwithstanding the Apostle’s assurance of the Lord that the lives of the entire ship’s company were given him, that all would be saved, he realized the propriety of using all proper diligence in cooperation with the promise. Hence, when he discerned the evident intention of the sailors to escape in the small boat, leaving the passengers, unable to guide the vessel, at the mercy of the sea, he communicated the facts to the centurion, pointing out the necessity of compliance with reasonable precautions to insure the fulfilment of the divine promise. So we all should understand that we have something to do in realizing the gracious promises of God to us. In connection with the affairs of this present life he has promised that our bread and water shall be sure, but this does not imply that we shall neglect reasonable opportunities for securing these. He has promised us also a share in the Kingdom by and by; but it is for us to make our calling and our election sure. God is thoroughly capable and thoroughly willing to perform all of his part in connection with every matter, but it is to our advantage that he calls upon us to show our faith by our works—by our cooperation with him in all reasonable ways. He does not expect us to perform miracles; but he does expect us to do what we are able to do both in respect to present things and eternal matters. By and by the Apostle’s predictions were fulfilled, and the entire ship’s company, some by swimming and others by floating on wreckage, reached the land. We notice again that the Apostle did not propose, on reaching land, to have a general revival service; he was not bent on exciting men’s minds, but was practising the same gospel methods which the Master taught him; viz., “Let us reason together”—sit down first and count the cost of discipleship, and, if willing to pay the price, “Come, take up thy cross, and follow me.” If this, the Lord’s method for gathering his people from the world, were still pursued, there would be many fewer nominal Christians; but we believe there would be no smaller number of the genuine ones. The time for bringing in the world is not yet; hence the Master’s words in prayer, “I pray not for the world, but for those whom thou hast given me out of the world, that they all may be one … that [ultimately, ‘in due time’] the world may believe.” The gathering of the elect class for the Kingdom is under disadvantageous conditions which will thoroughly test them, and make their way so narrow that few will find it, and still fewer make progress in it. When God’s time for dealing with the world shall have come, the powers of heaven and of earth will cooperate with the glorified Church in making the gospel so plain that a wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err therein.
So far as the record shows, the Apostle and his companions did no mission work amongst the barbarians of the island on which they were wrecked, nor amongst the soldiers and sailors, their companions during that winter. They left no Church there;—we may safely presume that they found no hearing ears. The lesson to us from this should be that we are not to expect the conversion of the world nor anything akin to it. We are to expect that the Lord will find with the truth a sufficient number to complete the elect Church, and then, with the power and the authority of the Kingdom, establish righteousness and cause the knowledge of himself to fill the earth and bless the whole world through the Church.—Gal. 3:29.