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VOL. XXVI. APRIL 1, 1905. No. 7
The Heavens Rolling Together………………… 99
Trades Unions and Religious Divisions………100
The Pope’s Expression on the Subject………100
“Kaiser and Pope”………………………101
A Catholic Critic’s View…………………102
Perfume Very Precious………………………103
Jesus in Social Life……………………103
“She Hath Done What She Could”……………104
Honor to Members—Honor to Head……………105
Let Us Do It Now…………………………106
Humility and Meekness—Bible Study for April……107
“Hosanna in the Highest”……………………108
The Time of Their Visitation………………109
Spiritual Israel’s Antitype………………110
Terms of Discipleship……………………111
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THE HEAVENS ROLLING TOGETHER
DURING the past twenty-five years we have several times called attention to the Scriptures which speak of the Day of the Lord and declare that in it the “heavens shall roll together like a scroll.” (Isa. 34:4.) We have pointed out that this means a coming together of the extremes of Christianity, Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Other Scriptures show us that the consolidation, federation and unification of Protestants is now in order. This is already well under way and constitutes in the symbolic book of Revelation the “image of the beast”—the symbolic beast itself represented by Papacy. We might here remark that nothing in this word “beast” is specially derogatory or invidious—neither in our use of the word nor in the Scriptural use. Throughout the Scriptures, in the symbolisms of Daniel and the Apocalypse, beasts are freely used as symbols for nations, governments, earthly powers, though never used as representing the divine power—the true Church, the true Kingdom, which shall ultimately prevail.
We have already pointed out a general organization of “the image of the beast” effected in 1846, and are waiting for what in the symbol is referred to as the “giving of life to the image.” This life, or vital energy, which the image is to receive shortly, comes from what is described as the two-horned beast, which in our understanding is the Church of England and Ireland. Our expectations, as heretofore set forth in these columns, are that after the federative influences already begun in Protestantism shall have knit the joints and members the more closely the one to the other, the entire federation of Protestants will receive some kind of Episcopal sanction, recognition, or ordination through the Episcopal system, and that thenceforth Protestantism the world over will assume a more active and dogmatic influence in the civil and political affairs of Christendom, cooperating with Roman Catholicism as a sister institution.
These are the two extremes of the heavens or ecclesiastical powers of the present time, and our Lord’s declaration that they shall be rolled together as a scroll signifies, not that they will ever become one roll, but, remaining two rolls, will be drawn together by mutual interest and necessity for cooperation. These things must be expected before the outbreak of the great tribulation, which will eventuate in the symbolical burning or destruction not only of the present social structure represented as the earth, but the burning and consuming also of the symbolical heavens rolled together as a scroll. That dreadful anarchy, which will destroy everything of our present conditions and civilization, will in so doing prepare the way for the establishment of the heavenly Kingdom. In view of these things the Lord
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bids us, even with such terrible calamities before us, to lift up our heads and rejoice, knowing that our deliverance draweth nigh, and knowing too that our deliverance, our “change,” signifies ultimately the deliverance of all the groaning creation from the curse of sin and death now resting upon the race.
“ROLLED TOGETHER AS A SCROLL”
For sometime we have been wondering how this rolling together of the heavens would come about. A few years ago we witnessed a great Romeward movement on the part of the High Church Episcopalians of Great Britain, and were somewhat surprised that Pope Leo XIII. refused to recognize the movement. However, we can see now that the repulsion of the High Church Episcopals has proved the better to keep the two parts of the scroll intact. As a result, the Episcopal Church is yearning for a closer alliance with all Protestants as well as with Romanists. Now we see in Germany what seems to be the start of this rolling together of the heavens, and it is to it that we now call special attention.
The relationship between Protestants and Catholics in Germany, as is well known, has been quite strained for years, but has been gradually easing up. It was Bismarck who, discerning that Catholic influence was inimical to the interests of Germany, secured the enactment of laws expelling the Jesuits and otherwise curbing the influence of the Catholics in that empire. But with the restraint of Catholicism and with the increase of enlightenment in Germany came enormous gains to the ranks of Socialists. The representatives of the German nation, in their Reichstag or Congress, became divided along religious as well as political lines. The Roman Catholics, under the guidance of their religious teachers, formed a solid party by themselves, and used their power on every possible occasion to defeat the Emperor’s
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plans, except as he would to some extent purchase their cooperation by granting, one after another, numerous concessions to Catholics—numerous releases from the restraining laws. The Socialists on nearly every question were opposed to the Emperor’s policy, and as they have grown remarkably in numbers, the Emperor, in order to have measures passed by a proper majority in the Reichstag, has been obliged to conciliate the Catholic element of his empire more and more, until at the present time he can scarcely secure an appropriation of money for any of his favorite schemes without the aid of the Catholic party, called the Centrist party. It is indeed the pivotal party.
TRADES UNIONS AND RELIGIOUS DIVISIONS
Another element is unexpectedly making itself felt in the direction of union between Catholic and Protestant in the German Empire, namely, trades unionism. The common interests of the working people led them about a year ago to a confederative cooperative association between the Catholic unions and the Protestant unions. The influence of the Roman ecclesiastics was not sufficient to hinder this cooperative movement among the working men for the protection of what they esteemed to be their vital interests. Altogether matters are so shaping themselves in Germany as to draw Catholic and Protestant more closely together.
Added to this is a recent expression by the new Pope which intimates a fellowship of feeling between himself and the German Emperor, and suggests a cooperation between them for the upholding of Christianity. Since the Emperor is a Protestant, and Germany is recognized as a Protestant country, this expression by the Pope seems to imply a willingness on his part to acknowledge Protestantism as a part of Christianity, and a general disposition on his part to favor cooperation between Catholics and Protestants along lines political, social and to a considerable degree religious. This is one of the most remarkable incidents of our time, and points in exactly the direction in which we have been looking. It points to a cooperation between Catholics and Protestants for the control of Christendom, and once the power has been tasted and the authority exercised we may be sure that it will increase, reaching out after more and more of the liberties of the people and bringing them under the combined control.
Doubtless, some of the first enactments will be against anarchy, social evils, immoralities, etc., and be very gratifying to all lovers of peace and order. Subsequently, however, we may be sure that this power will be exercised against Socialists, as being of a class calculated to disturb the public peace and to unsettle the present order of things. Still further along, all who are dissenters from the Church confederation will come under the ban and under the pressure, with a realization that liberty of thought on religious subjects has much to do with all liberty, and with the thought that the repression of liberty must mean the suppression of all religious teaching along independent lines, or, as we say, along Scriptural lines. When that hour shall come—probably within eight years—it will surely mean the suppression of ZION’S WATCH TOWER and all propaganda of the Truth.
We may expect that by that time all of the “elect” will have been found, and we will incline to expect such a suppression as corresponding to the point marked by our Lord’s parable when the “door was shut”—that no more might go in to the wedding. (Matt. 25:10.) So far as we are concerned these restrictions and suppressions must not move us to an abandonment in any degree of the wisdom that cometh from above, which is first pure, then peaceable, easy of entreatment and full of mercy and good fruits.
Instead of feeling even angry with those who would use restraint, we must be prepared to regard their course as our Lord regarded the course of those who suppressed him, and his answer to Pilate must satisfy us. His words were, “Thou couldst have no power at all against me except it were given thee from above.” (John 19:11.) If the power for suppression is given by our Lord it will mean to us the good tidings that the Kingdom is very near at hand, and all the more we will lift up our heads and rejoice, knowing our deliverance is at hand, and that just a little further, after the great storm of anarchy, the Sun of Righteousness shall shine forth clearly and gloriously to the blessing of all the families of the earth, under the administration of the Kingdom of God’s dear Son, of which, by the grace of God, we hope to be members.
THE POPE’S EXPRESSION ON THE SUBJECT
While matters have been thus shaping themselves in Protestant Germany a very opposite condition of affairs has prevailed in Catholic France. The French, though still nominally a Catholic country, have lost considerable of their reverence for the Papacy, have expelled the clergy from being teachers in the public schools and will not even allow nuns any longer to teach in their religious garbs. Altogether, the relationship between France and the Pope is quite strained. Naturally enough, this alienation between the Church and the nation which so long has been known as the eldest son of the Church, has led the Pope and his counsellors to look for sympathy and assistance from other quarters, and no doubt this condition of things has had much to do with the greater sympathy prevailing between the Pope and the Emperor William, who is seeking more and more to conciliate the Catholic element of his empire.
Pastor Adolph Storcker, who some time ago was court preacher to Emperor William and the royal household, but who it was thought could exercise a wider influence in another sphere, resigned his pastorate, and was elected a member of the Reichstag, where he is recognized as being not only a champion of Protestantism but also of the Emperor. When recently in the Reichstag one of the members, Dr. Spahn, a leader in the Catholic party, made the demand that Catholics should have full and equal rights and liberties with Protestants throughout Germany and that this should include the Jesuits, once expelled, Dr. Storcker replied:
“Delegate Dr. Spahn has demanded full and equal rights for the adherents of both Churches [Protestant and Catholic]. To me this is not the question at issue, nevertheless I wish to answer his proposition. If this thought of his [of full equality of Catholic and Protestant in the empire] is to penetrate into and win the heart of the German people, then not only a civil but a religious toleration [of Protestants] must take place on the part of the Catholic Church. Recently some one showed me the letter of a gentleman who had interviewed the Pope in Rome. That letter said that the Pope had spoken to the writer of the decay of the Church in Catholic countries, for instance in France, and had used the words, ‘I expect, in harmony and in cooperation with Emperor William, to lead the world back to Christ.’
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The words in French were, ‘Restituer le monde dans le Christ.’
“This is a grand thought; who would not wish that it might be realized! But to attain this mutual religious recognition it is wholly indispensable to make an end of strife. The Catholic Church must recognize Protestantism as an authorized element of Christendom, and the Protestant Church as an authorized feature of Christianity. Without this there need be no thought of peace. Only thus can we think of placing the world again upon a Christian foundation. I know full well how difficult this is, but since certain things cannot be developed except by transplanting them to a new soil, so must it also be in the religious domain. Otherwise the wild disputations which confuse and devastate our people will not cease.”
Here we have not only the suggestion of the Pope that this shall be the mutual work of a Protestant Emperor and himself, but we have also laid before the German Congress the very correct thought that such a union, such a reestablishment of a community of fellowship and interest along religious lines, must mean some recognition of Protestants as the other end of the
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scroll, and a bringing together of the two general parts for mutual well being, for mutual defence against the increasing power of Socialism. And, by the way, the expectation of the Socialists is that at their next general election, less than two years hence, their power will be so great that they can practically control Germany’s affairs. It is broadly hinted, too, that if such be the case the Emperor will find some means of overthrowing popular government and holding lines of government on a more autocratic basis—as an emperor, autocrat, by divine authority. As a preparation for this emergency, we cannot wonder that he has strengthened his hands with the Catholic element of the empire and to a considerable degree will be guided by the Pope.
PASTOR STORCKER’S VIEWS ON THE SITUATION
The above expression by Pastor Storcker in the Reichstag was some little time ago: recently he has made a much more elaborate statement of the same thought, which on December 20th, 1904, was laid before the public of Germany through the columns of Das Volk, a journal published under the Emperor’s special sanction. By the way, the motto of this newspaper is “With God for the Kaiser and the Kingdom.” We have secured a translation of this article, whose importance lies not merely in the phraseology but also in the fact that its writer is Pastor A. Storcker, honorable member of the Reichstag. The article, after referring to the Pope’s language above quoted, proceeds to say, under the caption:
“KAISER AND POPE”
“This matter is well worthy of being made prominent for public discussion. For there can be nothing more fatal to our people than bitter strife between the two churches, and nothing more beneficial for a harmonious control of the Fatherland than through an understanding of the matter. That this desideratum is possible is proven by a coalition known as ‘The Alliance of Christian National Trades-Unions,’ effected at Frankfort last year. To my knowledge not the least discord has yet come forward in the Alliance between the adherents of the two creeds. Rather the Catholic working men have held their position by an overwhelming vote against the efforts of the Bishops to hinder the harmonious interchanges between the labor organizations, and they have induced the Episcopate to assent to the understanding.
“It is praiseworthy for the working classes and instructive for the others that amid the raging of the poisoned strife a plane of peace has been created upon which Catholic and Protestant have joined in practical work for the combating and overthrow of all opposers of Christianity. Why should not this event be followed in other domains?
“The thought of the Pope, unless its point be lost, can surely mean nothing else than a more moderate Catholicism and Bible-believing Protestantism, which, when the possibility of joint action is found, can do much to deliver Christianity from the condition of unrest and excitement—from apostasy and immorality—from lack of authority and piety.
“The fact that the Pope, viewing the Catholic world, especially France, acknowledges the necessity for such action, is a proof of his perception as well as his energy. The Evangelical [Protestant] world suffers also, but at different points. From different causes, more particularly in the German world, she [Protestant religion] is sharply affected by Socialism and enmity to divine revelation, and similarly needs the restraining and reconciliation of the struggling elements. Of this there can be no doubt in the minds of the friends of the Fatherland, especially such as are disposed toward our social reforms [but not toward Socialism].
“That the Pope did express those very words is certain. The man to whom they were spoken is a prominent man, sufficiently bright to rightly perceive the significations of a remark of such wide bearing, and careful enough to repeat it verbatim. The interesting question is, How deep a meaning did the head of the Catholic Church attach to this extraordinary expression?
“Such a cooperation as the Pope’s words imply can never rest upon present religious and ecclesiastical foundations. Catholicism and Protestantism are too much at variance in their principles as well as in their practices, in their doctrines as well as in their lives, to come to an understanding with one another. The stimulation which the humanity of to-day needs does not lie in that which is common to both Churches, nor even perhaps in a still stronger avowing of matters pertaining to salvation as harmoniously asserted by Rome and Wittenburg in the Apostolic Creed. Our task rather is spiritual mediation respecting the divine revelation to mankind, torn by doubts and denials, confusion concerning Bible history by the laws of nature and casualty. Protestantism cannot alone undertake this mediation, much less could Catholics alone succeed with it [hence the necessity for united efforts].
“What the Pope meant can signify nothing less than a cooperation in the sphere of social and moral reawakening. And that in this some sort of partnership is possible is shown by the already existing equality of the two churches in the social and political economy of our Fatherland and in the cooperation for the suppression of alcohol, traffic in girls, immorality and bad literature. But these matters fail to reach a community of interest and action because the ecclesiastical chasm separating the two conditions prevents this, and the enmity breaking forth ever anew puts again in doubt every good result achieved.
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“For the removal of this difficulty I have made the request that the Catholic Church should recognize the rights of Protestants. In our day, when numerous members of both Churches refuse in principle the doctrines of the apostles, it is senseless to ignore and deny as true Christians such [Romanists] as do hold to the Apostolic teachings. On the other hand, it is unhistorical to refuse to recognize as parts of the great Church system the evangelical Protestant churches, which for the last four centuries have done such great things in Christian development.
“It is self evident that the present strife must continue between the evangelical and ecclesiastical; that a different position than that of conflict is not conceivable between the two churches upon German soil; but the mutual misunderstanding of one another and disregard of one another should cease.
A CATHOLIC CRITIC’S VIEW
“The Saechsische Volkszeitung, the organ of the Catholics in the kingdom of Saxony, considers my demand obscure and unnecessary. It considers, on the one hand, that a discussion of religious toleration does not belong to the Roman Catholic; one could just as well discuss Jews and atheists. On the other hand, the recognition of Protestants as Christians is being continually conceded even by Catholicism. However, the Catholic Church being convinced that she possesses the truth, must, therefore, consider every opposing doctrine false.
“To these replies I would only say that Delegate Dr. Spahn has demanded full, civil, equal rights for Catholics, including the Jesuits; and that, as a consequence, it is absolutely necessary to discuss that which hinders equal rights, namely, the religious intolerance of at least the majority of the German people. Secondly, the discussion is not about Jews and atheists, but about churches with a Christian creed. Thirdly, it matters not that Rome calls the Protestants Christians, but that she should recognize and esteem them as such. Fourthly, I hold that Rome should not only recognize the individual Evangelicals [Protestants] as Christians, but the Evangelical Churches as well, as recognized parts of Christendom.
“We Protestants, reared as Lutherans, hold the Lutheran doctrines of the Lord’s Supper as the correct one, and that of Zwingli, therefore, as being wrong; but we do not draw from this the conclusion which Rome derives from the opinion that she possesses the truth. One can argue about differences and each hold his own opinion as to which is the right one, yet need not exert a decisive influence upon the judgment of the whole.
“In religious matters we have to deal with the material world and with revelation, both of which, according to their nature, are capable of various constructions on different points. Therefore, it would only be a reasonable expectation, a self-evident matter, if Rome were to withdraw from that harsh point of view [respecting Protestants as being anti-Christian] with which Protestantism originally viewed Rome [as anti-Christian].
“At all events, the Pope’s declaration shows that such a change in his point of view is not far off. Indeed, we have had times in which a mutual recognition of both stand points was evident. I remember that in my student years, the remark of the Catholic Professor Kuhn of Tubingen was repeatedly mentioned as illustrating a changed Catholic view. His words were, “Who of us Catholics could wish the Reformation had never taken place?” I fully understand his position. In Protestant countries [by reason of the divisions amongst Protestants] the Catholic Church stands out as by far the strongest, most favored and influential.
“But the considerations which cause me to urge my demands are not of a theoretical or historical kind, but that expression of the Pope which upon stern Catholic ground loses its significance. A further consideration is the expression of a still greater than the Pope—Christ—who, in his High-Priestly prayer that all Christians might be one, laid the foundation for the faith of the world. That our Lord in that prayer thought only of the Roman Catholic Church united under the Pope no intelligent Catholic will assert; consequently he must have meant and deemed possible another unity which would cause the world more rapidly to believe in the sending of the Son. A further argument is found in the Epistle to the Galatians, namely, ‘If you bite and devour one another, beware lest ye be consumed one of another.'”
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The argument drawn from our Lord’s prayer, “That they all might be one, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me,” is an illustration of how the most precious truths may at times be so understood and wrested as to support fallacies and to hide their real meaning. Pastor Storcker considers that this Scripture favors the drawing together into a confederation the various Protestant denominations of Christendom in a sympathetic cooperation with the Church of Rome. He is blind to the facts of the case, both as respects the great anti-Christ and the image of the beast; and the great majority of Christendom are similarly blind on this subject. The Lord has indeed hidden his great divine plan from the wise and prudent and makes it known merely to the babes, the humble.
Can we think that it will be possible for Roman Catholics and Protestants ever to become one in the sense that our Lord prayed in this petition—”that they might all be one even as thou, Father, and I are one”? Surely we can not think so for a moment. What communion hath light with darkness? What fellowship hath wheat with tares? The fulfilment of our Lord’s prayer will be on a much grander scale, although all who are his and who will be one with him and the Father will be but a little flock, to whom it will be the Father’s good pleasure to give the Kingdom, in joint-heirship with the Messiah.
The Lord’s real disciples have been one in heart, in purpose, with himself and with each other throughout this Gospel age, and they are one to-day. With fellowship of heart and with purpose true and real, they are all both justified and sanctified in Christ Jesus, who counts not in their number any of those who are tares, goats or wolves. “The Lord knoweth them that are his.” Soon they shall be one in a larger and more complete and comprehensive sense, when they all shall be gathered to and united with the Lord their Head as his Bride and joint-heirs. Then they shall be one in the fullest sense, and then indeed the world shall believe, for the Millennial Sun of Glory shall then shine out, revealing fully the divine character and plan and filling the whole earth with the knowledge of the glory of God.
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PERFUME VERY PRECIOUS
JOHN 12:1-11.—APRIL 16
Golden Text:—”She hath done what she could”—Mark 14:8
IT WAS Saturday night, as we reckon it, the evening following the Jewish Sabbath day—after six P.M.—that Jesus and his disciples and Lazarus, whom he had previously awakened from the sleep of death, with some other friends of the family, sat down to a feast prepared in special honor of Jesus at the home of his friends, where he was always welcome and where he stopped more frequently than at any other house during the period of his ministry, so far as the records show. It was at Bethany, the home of Lazarus and Martha and Mary. It was called the house of Simon the leper, one supposition being that Simon was the father of the family, and another that he was the husband of Martha, who at this time was a widow.
Our Lord and his disciples were en route for Jerusalem, and Bethany was on the way, in the suburbs. They probably arrived on what would correspond to our Friday, or the Jewish sixth day of the week. Expecting them, Martha and Mary had provided quite a sumptuous feast, and, in harmony with the Jewish rules governing in such cases, the dishes were evidently prepared in advance, as Sabbath labor was prohibited. No account is given us of that Sabbath day at Bethany, but we can well imagine the delightful social intercourse between the dear members of that family and the Lord and his chosen apostles.
JESUS IN SOCIAL LIFE
The Master’s words of wisdom and love are not recorded, but we know on the best of authority that a good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth good things, and out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. Hence we may know that the day was not given over to frivolity of word or conduct, but to rest, spiritual enjoyment, which minister to the refreshment of all in the right attitude of heart. The same rule applies to all of the Lord’s followers wherever they may be, whatever may be their vocation or surroundings. Out of the good treasure of their hearts they can bring forth nothing else but good things, and if any be otherwise minded let him beware, and correct the difficulty of the heart and not merely of the head.
We can imagine better than we can portray the loving sentiments of Lazarus and his sisters toward Jesus, the one they esteemed so highly, the one who, by calling Lazarus forth from the tomb, had demonstrated his Messiahship and that in him was the resurrection and the life power. This was probably the first visit the Lord had made to the Bethany home since that great event.
Apparently our Lord had friends in various walks of life; a few were rich, some were poor, some in moderate circumstances. The Bethany household was apparently of a comfortable class, as was evidenced by the fact that they had their own home, that they had their own tomb, and that on this occasion Mary was able as well as willing to spend a considerable sum of money in doing honor to the Lord by anointing him with the very precious spikenard. This reminds us of the prayer of one of old, “Give me neither poverty nor riches.” Riches are a great snare to the many, and the Lord’s word assures us that not many rich will enter the Kingdom. The attractions of the present life to them will prove too powerful and hinder their fulfilment of their consecration vows—to sacrifice their all, to lay all at Jesus’ feet, to become merely his stewards in the use of their temporal opportunities and blessings, and to use these wisely in his service and in such a manner as to demonstrate the love and loyalty they have professed.
In many respects to have a moderate competency in life is very desirable, permitting a more generous treatment of others, greater hospitality, etc.; yet even moderate prosperity seems to be more than the majority can stand and yet be faithful. Consequently we find in fact what our Lord declared, namely, that the heirs of the Kingdom are chiefly of the poor of this world—chiefly of those who have little and who have little hope for getting more, and whose minds consequently are more readily turned to the heavenly things which the Lord has promised to those who love him supremely.
To whatever extent, therefore, we have comfortable surroundings, such as were possessed by the Bethany household—to whatever extent we have the good things of this present life—in that same proportion we need to be specially on guard against the cares of this life and the deceitfulness of riches and the ambitions and hopes and aims of the world, lest these should lead our hearts away from the loyalty and devotion to the Lord and his cause which full faith and trust should inspire and sustain. Evidently it is possible to be poor in spirit without being actually in poverty, but the more there is of earthly prosperity apparently more grace is needed to keep us in the narrow way.
“OINTMENT OF SPIKENARD VERY COSTLY”
The two sisters evidently had the matter planned between them: Martha served at the table and Mary served in an especial manner with the ointment. Oriental tables were a combination of couch and table, and the guests were properly described as reclining at a feast. It was customary to rest the forepart of the body
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upon one elbow while using the other hand to convey the food to the mouth, etc. Our Lord thus reclining, both his head and his feet were very conveniently accessible to Mary, who proceeded to anoint first his head and afterward his feet with the ointment.
The word ointment gives rather a misimpression; the word perfume would more nearly describe the liquid used. Its value is incidentally mentioned as more than three hundred pence (v. 5). These silver pence represent about sixteen cents each, and thus estimated the alabaster flask of perfume was worth about forty-eight dollars; but counting each penny or denarius as a day’s wages at that time (Matt. 20:2), the three hundred pence would be equivalent to a year’s wages of a working man, or about three hundred dollars to six hundred dollars as compared with our day.
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This was very precious ointment indeed by whichever calculation we reckon it, yet that the statement is not overdrawn is attested by ancient literature. For instance, we are told that Horace offered to give a cask of wine for a very small box of spikenard—Odes, Ovid, IV, XII, XVII. A perfume even in our day has been rated as high as $100.00 per ounce, namely, attar of roses. At this price, Mary’s “pound” would have been worth $1,200.00.
“SHE HATH DONE WHAT SHE COULD”
The use of such expensive perfumes was very rare: indeed, even the emperors used it sparingly, but when used it was generally poured upon the head. Mary followed this custom in pouring it upon the Lord’s head, as Matthew and Mark recount; but having done this, she proceeded to his feet and anointed them with the perfume, and then wiped his feet with the long tresses of her hair. What a picture of loving devotion is here given us! The feet, always recognized as the humblest and lowest members of the human frame—the hair of the head, especially of woman, always recognized as a special treasure and glory to her—here thus brought together in a way which signified that Mary esteemed her Lord and Master as infinitely above and beyond her. She had recognized him first as the most wonderful of men, speaking as never man spake; she had come afterwards to understand that he was a great teacher, especially sent at a special time; and finally, through the awakening of Lazarus from the sleep of death, she had evidence that the power of the Almighty was in him, that he was none other than the Son of God, and she appropriately did him the reverence due to his exalted station.
She could not put him on the throne of earth, but she would show that she was his devoted servant forever; she could not glorify him before all the people of Israel, but she could glorify and honor him in her own home; she could not tell his praises and sing his worth, but she could sing and make melody in her own heart, and pour upon him a perfume which not only filled her home with its sweet savor, but which has yielded a tender fragrance to the honor of womankind in general from her day to the present time. “She hath done what she could,” said the Lord—she has shown her devotion to the best of her ability. How true the remainder of our Lord’s prophecy on the subject, “Wherever this Gospel is preached, this thing shall be told as a memorial of her.” A sweet memorial of a sweet character and loving heart. Considered in the light of the odor and blessing and refreshment which it has shed upon all of the Lord’s people throughout this Gospel age, Mary’s alabaster jar of precious perfume, very costly, has proven to be extremely cheap.
“MIGHT HAVE BEEN GIVEN TO THE POOR”
Our lesson says that Judas protested against such a waste of money, and explains that it was not because he cared so much for the poor, as that he was a thief and regretted that the amount spent for the perfume had not been handed to him as the treasurer for the group of disciples, so that he might have misappropriated it to himself. This thought is more particularly shown in the revised version, which renders it, “He was a thief, and having the bag took away what was put therein.” Matthew says “the disciples”—Mark says, “There were some”—but John mentions Judas only as doing this murmuring against the expense involved in Mary’s service to her Lord. Quite probably all the accounts are correct. Judas, no doubt, was the instigator of the murmuring, some more quickly and more thoroughly shared his sentiments, and the remainder of the apostles, probably influenced by the majority, were inclined to yield and to agree that the extravagance was wrong. But Jesus set the whole matter at rest in a few words, saying, “Let her alone; against the day of my burying hath she kept this. The poor ye have always with you, but me ye have not always.”
Many of the Lord’s disciples to-day need to reconstruct their ideas on the subject of economy. True, it is necessary for us to be provident not wasteful, and economical not extravagant. Our Lord frequently inculcated this lesson, as, for instance, when he directed the gathering up of the fragments of broken food after feeding the multitude. But there is a proper place to draw the line. The person who is economical and penurious in his dealings with the Lord is sure to be the loser thereby, as the Scriptures declare, “The liberal soul shall be made fat;” and again, “There is he that scattereth yet increaseth, and there is he that withholdeth more than is meet [proper] and it tendeth to poverty.”
It is a different matter for us to learn to be economical in respect to our own affairs and to be liberal to the extent of extravagance in matters which pertain to the Lord and his service. We sometimes sing, “Thou art coming to a King, large petitions with thee bring,” but he who brings large petitions to the throne of grace should be sure also that he bring with him a large alabaster box of perfume for the Lord—not hoping thereby to merit the Lord’s favor nor to perfume his requests, but as a mark of his appreciation of blessings already received. Those who bring the alabaster boxes of perfume of praise and thankfulness very generally have little to ask. Rather they realize that they are already debtors to such an extent that they can never show properly their appreciation of divine favor. Properly they recognize that day by day they are receiving at the Lord’s hands exceedingly and abundantly more than they could ask or wish, and that in the spiritual blessings alone they have what satisfies their longings as nothing else can do. Such more nearly follow the course of Mary and bring alabaster boxes of perfume to the Lord—their prayers and thanksgiving of heart; and asking nothing, but giving thanks for all things, they receive from the Master such an outpour of blessing that they are not able to contain it.
Those who view the matter rightly must certainly feel that none of us have anything worthy to present to our Lord—that our very best, our most costly gifts or sacrifices, are not worthy of him and but feebly express the real sentiments of our hearts. How glad we are if our humble efforts are accepted of the Lord, and how we hope that ultimately we shall hear the same sweet voice saying of us, “He hath done what he could,” “She hath done what she could.”
The poet Tennyson beautifully pictures the scene we have been considering in the following lines:—
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“Her eyes are homes of silent prayer,
Nor other thought her mind admits
But, he was dead, and there he sits,
And He that brought him back is there.
“Then one deep love doth supersede
All other, when her ardent gaze
Roves from the living brother’s face,
And rests upon the Life indeed.
“All subtle thought, all curious fears,
Borne down by gladness so complete,
She bows, she bathes the Saviour’s feet
With costly spikenard and with tears.”
THE POOR EVER WITH US
Our Lord’s prophecy that poverty would continue throughout this Gospel age has been amply fulfilled. Looking forward into the future, we rejoice to know that then, under the reign of the Kingdom, there will be no more poor, no more sorrow, no more want. “Every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, with none to molest or make him afraid.” Those changed conditions will not be the result of human evolution, human theories, co-operative societies, unions, trusts, etc. All these various panaceas for making everybody rich and comfortable and happy have failed in the past and will continue to be failures in the future. Because of sin warping and twisting the very fibers of humanity, and through selfishness and ambition and desire working upon the warped and twisted elements of humanity, pain, suffering and want are sure to continue as long as sin continues. And sin is sure to continue until the great Messiah takes to himself his great power and reigns, and subdues sin and all that is contrary to righteousness and truth and establishes the latter upon the earth.
Until that glorious day shall come, all through the night of weeping, for now more than eighteen hundred centuries, the poor have been with us and many of them have been the Lord’s precious ones. Poverty has proven itself a blessing in many ways in many senses of the word under present conditions. Not only does the fact of poverty and the fear of poverty help to keep many in line and make them active in the battle of life, and thus develop in them overcoming qualities, but, on the other hand, the fact that there is poverty, the fact that we have friends and neighbors who need our care and need assistance, is a blessing to those who are more comfortably situated themselves, in that it develops their sympathy, patience, love, their desire to do good, their desire
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to help. He that giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord and the Lord will repay him. This promise is so rich and so plainly stated that the wonder is that there are not more willing to make investments in harmony with it, and to realize that the Lord not only repays, but gives large interest.
“ME YE HAVE NOT ALWAYS”
The opportunity for honoring the Lord was limited—a little while and his sufferings would be ended and he would be glorified, beyond the evil, beyond the power of human attention. It was appropriate then, when viewed from the right standpoint, that Mary should spend a great price upon her Lord—that the head upon which fell the slanders and anathemas of the chief priests and doctors of divinity of that day, and upon which shortly the crown of thorns would be placed, should now be honored by one amongst a few of those who realized his true worth, his true grandeur, his Kingship, that he was indeed the Son of God. It was appropriate, too, that those feet which had trodden the valleys and hillsides of Palestine, and that were so weary at times, and that symbolized the feet of consecration treading the narrow, rugged way, and that so soon would be pierced with the nails on the cross, should now be highly honored by one who appreciated and trusted them, who loved them and who was seeking to walk in the Master’s steps.
When we get the right view of the matter, we can indeed sympathize with our Lord’s expression, “Let her alone,” Trouble her not, Take it not from her—as though when the first motion was made to use the spikenard the apostles had wished to have it spared that they might sell it, and as though our Lord hindered them from using persuasion to that end, saying, Let her alone, do not hinder her.
Spikenard Mary represents one of the most beautiful elements of Christian character amongst the Lord’s people from that day until the present. For be it remembered that the entire Church of Christ in the largest sense is the “body of Christ,” as expressed by Jesus and also by the apostles. The Mary class, who would rather purchase perfume at a great cost whereby to serve the anointed Church, the body of Christ, than to spend the same upon themselves, is still with us, and has been of the Church for these eighteen centuries. Not only was the Head of the body anointed, perfumed, honored, comforted, cheered, but all of the members since have likewise received a blessing from this class, this spikenard Mary class. It is composed not always of the orators, the wealthy or the wise—its ministry is unostentatious and to many, especially of the world, it seems foolishness and waste—but the Lord appreciates it, and so do the members of his body who are comforted and refreshed thereby. Blessing be upon this Mary class!
HONOR TO MEMBERS—HONOR TO HEAD
But if there have been members all the way down who have been comforted in this way, should we not expect some particular blessing of the kind in the end of this age, upon the “feet” members? According to our understanding we are now in the closing of this age—the Head has been glorified, many of the members of the body have passed beyond the veil, and only the feet are here. Perhaps this very picture of Mary’s anointing the feet of our Lord as well as his head constitutes a type or picture of what we may expect in this present time. And here comes in a beautiful feature of the divine arrangement—we may all be of the Mary class as well as of the feet class. In other words, each member of the body of Christ may to some extent serve the fellow-members of the body, the fellow-members of the feet, as Mary served the feet of Jesus.
Let each one of the Lord’s true people as he studies this matter conclude that by the grace of God he will join the Mary class, and purchase spikenard very costly and lavish it upon the feet of the body of Christ—the Church—the true members. This will mean love, sympathy, kindness, gentleness, patience and assistance and comfort. It will mean large and growing development in all the fruits and graces of the Spirit, whose combined name is Love.
Dear readers, let us each remember that while it is impossible for us to do as Mary did in this lesson, it is the privilege of each to do still more important things for each other, for the brethren of Christ now in the world, the feet members of his body. Hers was a literal
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perfume and in time lost its virtue; but the little acts of kindnesses and helpfulness which we may render one to another will never lose their merit in the estimation of our Lord, and never lose their fragrance to all eternity in the estimation of each other. The little things of life, the little words, the little tokens, the kind looks, the little assistances by the way, these and not great things are our possibilities, our perfumes, the one for the other.
“WASH ONE ANOTHER’S FEET”
The washing of the feet in olden times in oriental lands was very necessary to the comfort, and hence to wash one another’s feet would signify to comfort and refresh one another even in the most menial services. This is the essence of our Lord’s lesson to us, that we should be glad for any opportunity for serving one another, for comforting and helping one another, however menial the service. Apply this now to the expression of our lesson. Mary washed our Lord’s feet with perfume, and the Mary class, the most loving and devoted class in the Church, are to help one another, to wash one another’s feet; and they are to do so not in the rudest and clumsiest manner imaginable, but, inspired by love and devotion one to another, they are to wash one another’s feet with the kindness and sympathy and love and appreciation symbolized by Mary’s spikenard; and their comforting of one another is to be with that love and solicitation which was represented by Mary’s using the very locks of her head for her Master’s feet.
We see some evidence that this love, this spikenard-Mary love and sympathy, is growing amongst the members of the Lord’s body; that as they perceive the animosity of the world and the flesh and the Adversary against the Lord’s anointed they are all the more devoted one to another, and all the more disposed to honor one another with care and love and sympathy, and to speak and act generously and kindly one toward another. We are glad of this—we know of no better evidence of growth in grace on the part of the consecrated. Let the good work go on until we shall have filled the house with the perfume of love, until the whole world shall take knowledge of how Christians love one another—not in a narrow or partisan sense, but in the broad sense that Christ loved all who love the Father and all who sought to walk in the Father’s ways.
LET US DO IT NOW
If Mary had waited another week she might have used the perfume upon herself but not upon the Lord—within a week from the time of this incident our Lord was buried, the tomb was sealed, the Roman Guard stood before it and there would have been no opportunity even to have poured it upon his dead body. How much better that she improved the opportunity, that she showed the Lord her devotion while he was still her guest. The parallel is here: it will not be long until all the members of the body of Christ will have filled their share of the sufferings and have passed beyond the veil “changed.”
Wisdom tells us that we should not delay in bringing our alabaster boxes of ointment and pouring their contents upon our dear ones of the body of Christ, the feet of Christ. No matter if they do not notice us, or think of us, or pour any upon us as members of the feet; let us do our part, let us be of the Mary class, let us pour out the sweet perfume upon others, and the house, the Church of the Lord, will be filled with the sweet odor, even though some disciples might mistakingly charge us with being extravagant with our love and with our devotion, not understanding that the Master by and by will say again, “Let her alone, she hath done what she could.” Our Lord’s estimate of this spikenard and anointing is that it is all that we can do—nothing could be more or better. It indicates love, great love—and “love is the fulfilling of the law.”
“Let us consider one another,” said the Apostle—consider one another’s weaknesses, consider one another’s trials, consider one another’s temptations, consider one another’s efforts to war a good warfare against the world, the flesh and the Adversary—consider one another’s troubles in the narrow way against opposition from within and without, and as we do so it will bring to our hearts sympathy, a sympathy which will take pleasure in pouring out the spikenard perfume, very costly, purest and best, upon all who are fellow-members of the one body.
Some one has spoken of the great “Society of Encouragers” who do so much to help encourage and uplift the footsore and weary in the pathway of life. It is not a great society so far as members are concerned, but it is a great society from the Lord’s standpoint and from the standpoint of all who have been helped and encouraged by it. Spikenard Mary might have been said to have been a prominent member in this society of encouragers. We may well imagine that as our dear Redeemer was thinking of the severe trials, including the cross, of the week already begun, Mary’s manifestation of love and devotion would come to him as a special encouragement and refreshment of spirit. So few seemed to understand him! even his disciples did not appreciate the situation. Here was one who at least loved him, had confidence in him. No doubt it gave him courage for the remaining days of his journey.
THE TRUTH TERSELY STATED
Respecting the propriety of using present opportunities for the comfort and encouragement one of another, a writer has pointedly said:
“Don’t keep the alabaster boxes of your love and tenderness sealed up till your friends are dead. Fill their lives with gladness. Speak approving, cheering words while they can hear them … If my friends
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have alabaster boxes full of the fragrant perfume of sympathy and affection laid away, which they intend to break over my body, I would rather they would bring them out in my weary and troubled hours, and open them, that I may be refreshed and cheered by them while I need them. … I would rather have a plain coffin without a flower, a funeral without a eulogy, than life without the sweetness of love and sympathy. … Flowers on the coffin cast no fragrance backward on the weary road.”
Mrs. Preston’s poem, “Ante Mortem,” expresses the same thought thus:—
…”Had I but heard
One breath of applause, one cheering word—
One cry of ‘Courage!’ amid the strife,
So weighted for me with death or life—
How would it have nerved my soul to strain
Thro’ the whirl of the coming surge again.”
SACRIFICE OF SWEET ODOR
The Apostle, speaking of the ministries of the
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Church one for another, says that ours is a sacrifice of sweet odor unto God, but again he adds that the Gospel referred to is of life unto life to some and of death unto death to others. That is to say, good deeds, kind words and efforts will be appreciated by those who are in the right attitude of heart to appreciate them, while on the contrary the same good deeds will arouse offence and constitute a bad odor to those who are in a wrong condition of heart. How often have we seen it so, that with our best endeavors to serve the feet of Christ some have been comforted and refreshed, others have been angered—to one the effort was a sweet odor, to the others it was an offensive odor, because of their wrong attitude of heart toward the Lord and toward the body of Christ—because, perhaps, of their ambitions or whatnot that were interfered with.
It was just so at Bethany: the sweet odors that filled the house, and the blessing and refreshment that came to Mary in connection with the ministration, had a very different effect upon Judas. He was angry; his selfishness hindered his appreciation of the honor done to the Lord; he could think only of himself and what he had hoped to get out of the transaction, and how, so far as he was concerned, the whole matter was a waste. The sourness that came to his heart because of its wrong attitude is indicated by the testimony that he straightway went to the chief priests to bargain with them for the betrayal of Jesus. Let us, then, dear brethren, see to it that our hearts are in a loving attitude toward the Lord and not in a selfish attitude—that we appreciate everything done in his name and for his body, and that we be not self-seeking. Otherwise the result will be with us the savor of death unto death, as it was with Judas.
This concludes our lesson. It was the next day probably that the Jews began to gather in considerable numbers to see Jesus and Lazarus, and to take counsel respecting the putting of them to death—”for the good of the cause.” And, by the way, let us remember that the “good of the cause” has nearly always been the basis for every mean and despicable act against the Truth from first to last. Let us beware of such a sectarian spirit; let us see to it that our love for the Lord and all of his brethren is sincere, and not a personal and selfish one for ourselves or some denomination, otherwise we know not into what evils we might be led.
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HUMILITY AND MEEKNESS
—BIBLE STUDY FOR APRIL—
What importance does God attach to these graces of Christian character? 1 Pet. 5:5,6; 3:4; Psa. 147:6; 149:4; F.90, par. 1; E.277, par. 2; A.83, par. 2; Z.’96-19 (2nd col. par. 1,2,3); Z.’00-67,68,285 (1st col. par. 1).
Although the Scriptures use the words interchangeably, yet, strictly speaking, what is the distinction between humility and meekness? Z.’00-68 (1st col. par. 1); (2nd col. par. 2); Z.’96-79 (2nd col. par. 2). See Webster.
What is the relation between humility and knowledge? Psa. 25:9; F.97, par. 2; Z.’96-18 (2nd col. par. 2,3); 19 (1st and 2nd cols.); Z.’98-25 (2nd col. par. 1); Z.’01-262 (1st col. par. 1); Z.’05-59 (1st col. par. 3).
How do we know that humility is the underlying principle of the divine government? Matt. 23:12; Jas. 4:6,10; Phil. 2:7-10; E.165, par. 2; E.437, par. 1; Z.’00-196 (2nd col. par. 2,3,4).
What does it mean to be “clothed with humility?” 1 Pet. 5:5; Z.’00-196 (2nd col. par. 1).
Is it possible to have too great humility? E.278, par. 3.
What elements of character are in direct opposition to humility? 1 Pet. 5:5; Prov. 3:34; 6:16-19; Z.’97-247 (1st col. par. 4,5); Z.’96-263 (2nd col. par. 3,4); Z.’99-80 (2nd col. par. 4); Z.’02-359 (1st col. par. 1); Z.’03-329 (2nd col. par. 1).
What lessons may we learn from Jesus’ example of humility? Phil. 2:8; E.124,125,437, (par. 1); Z.’97-242 (2nd col. par. 3); Z.’97-296 (2nd col. par. 2) to 297, (par. 4); Z.’99-80 (2nd col. par. 1,3); Z.’05-30 (1st col. par. 4).
Was humility characteristic of the apostles? Eph. 3:8; Z.’95-250 (1st col. par 3); Z.’01-187 (1st col. par. 3); (2nd col. par. 1,2); F.210, (par. 2) to 212, (par. 1).
Why is humility a chief essential in an Elder? 1 Tim. 3:6; F.246, par. 2; F.251, par. 2; F.278, par. 4; F.296, par. 1,2; Z.’03-430 (1st col. par. 3).
Why should husbands cultivate and exercise humility? Eph. 5:25; F.497, par. 1.
How can wives exercise humility? Eph. 5:22-24; F.500, par. 2.
Why is it important that we teach our children meekness and humility? Zeph. 2:3; F.555, par. 1; Z.’96-82 (1st and 2nd cols.); Z.’96-192 (1st col. par. 4,5).
What Scriptural promises are given to the meek and humble?
What notable illustrations and examples of meekness and humility do we find in the Bible? Matt. 11:28-30; Num. 12:3; Matt. 8:8; Jno. 13:1-17; Z.’01-347 (2nd col. par. 1,2).
Give suggestions as to the best methods for acquiring and cultivating these important graces. Z.’96-79 (2nd col. par. 2,3). (a) By prayer. Psa. 19:12-14. (b) By studying the divine wisdom, knowledge and power, as manifested in the Word and in Nature. Psa. 8:3,4; 1 Cor. 4:7. (c) By comparing ourselves with our Perfect Pattern, the Lord Jesus. Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18.
What additional thoughts can be found by consulting the Topical Indexes of the “New Bible” and “Heavenly Manna”?
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“HOSANNA, IN THE HIGHEST!”
—JOHN 12:12-26.—APRIL 23 —
Golden Text:—”Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord”—Matt. 21:9
THOUSANDS of people were gathering in Jerusalem, not only from every quarter of Palestine, but from Babylon, Egypt, Greece and Spain. It is estimated that at some of these Passover feasts a couple of millions assembled within and on the outskirts of Jerusalem. This was according to the divine commandment respecting the observance of the Passover feast. It is but reasonable to suppose that the majority—coming from a distance at considerable expense of time, etc.,—if not pious, were religiously inclined, although some doubtless regarded it merely as an excursion. The purely mercenary had little to expect, for there were a sufficient number so inclined already residing in Jerusalem, who would secure the best opportunities for money-making in merchandising, money-changing, etc.
Our Lord and his disciples, as we noted in our last lesson, were amongst these pilgrims to the holy city, and these, we saw, took up their abode at Bethany. On the morning after the feast at which our Lord was anointed with the spikenard, he sent two of the apostles for an ass—a donkey. On its arrival garments were spread on it as a saddle, and our Lord, riding thereon, with the company of his disciples and the friends of the family and those who had witnessed the calling forth of Lazarus from the tomb, started as a little procession for the city. En route they were met by quite a company of people coming from Jerusalem to Bethany, because they had heard that the Lord was there, and because they desired to see the one of whom they had heard as the mighty miracle-worker who had even raised Lazarus from the tomb.
BRANCHES OF THE DATE PALM
Our Lord’s fame had spread abroad, and evidently divine providence had much to do with this entire arrangement, the meeting of the two companies, etc. Many of the people broke off branches of the date-palm
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trees growing in that vicinity, fernlike in shape and sometimes ten feet long. These were symbols of rejoicing and honor, symbols representing in this case that our Lord was the hero of the hour, whom they delighted to distinguish. At the meeting, there was a joyous uproar of praise and thankfulness to God; they were carried away with the enthusiasm of the moment. They spread the palm branches before the beast upon which our Lord sat, and those who had no palm branches spread their outer garments as an honor to the one who thus rode triumphantly, and picking up their palm branches and garments after our Lord’s beast had walked over them they went ahead with these and strewed them afresh, thus in every way seeking to do honor to the one whom God had so signally recognized. In doing this the people were but expressing the pent-up feelings of their hearts.
For over sixteen centuries, since they had come into Canaan, they had been waiting for Messiah and the glorious fulfilment of the Oath-Bound Covenant made to Abraham, confirmed to Isaac and Jacob and their posterity. The majestic personality of our Lord fitted to their grandest conceptions of Immanuel, and had been attested by the wonderful miracles of which they had heard, the most prominent of which was evidenced before their eyes in the person of Lazarus and those who had borne testimony that they had seen him come forth from the tomb after he had been dead four days. Their hearts were right; they had not yet been spoiled by the doubts and fears of human wisdom, which in the worldly wise insisted upon seeing the money, and the soldiers, and corresponding influence before it could believe in or accept any one as the Messiah, the Deliverer from the Roman yoke.
So it sometimes is with the Lord’s people to-day. In the simplicity of our hearts we see precious promises in his Word and are ready to believe them; then the Adversary brings along objections, fears and doubts, and queries as to how, and the faith becomes diluted and loses its power to control our lives and conduct further. Our Lord, therefore, urges upon his followers that they should have the faith and obedience of little children and not be of the worldly wise. His Word assures us that the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God, and that God’s wisdom and God’s plan seem to the world to be foolishness. We must take our choice as between human wisdom and divine wisdom. Blessed are they who walk by faith and not by sight, and accept the wisdom of the divine Word. The end of the Lord’s plan will fully justify their confidence, and work out abundantly more and better things than they ever dreamed.
HOSANNA IN THE HIGHEST
The word Hosanna is an acclaim of praise and confidence and expectancy and very closely resembles in thought the word hallelujah. Collecting the different exclamations of the people as given in the different Gospels we have these: “Hosanna,” “Hosanna to the Son of David,” “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord,” “Blessed is the King,” “Blessed is the King of Israel, that cometh in the name of the Lord,” “Blessed is the Kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord,” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest,” “Hosanna in the highest.” Our Lord, of course, understood the whole situation—”He knew what was in man.” He knew the depths of the sincerity behind these exclamations and acts of reverence; he knew, too, of the forces of evil and their power to make light appear darkness and darkness appear light.
He knew that he was to be the Passover Lamb, and
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that within five days another multitude, led by religious teachers, would be crying “Crucify him! Crucify him!” He knew that this shout now around him, gladly hailing him as the Messenger of the Covenant, would be disconcerted by the wolves—that they would be fearful of their own lives and interests as they would realize the power of the rulers and the mob under their control. He realized that with their little knowledge they would not dare to trust their own judgments as against those of their religious teachers; he knew that the Shepherd was about to be smitten and the sheep to be frightened and scattered, yet he said nothing; he allowed the divine program to be enacted; he was going as a sheep to the slaughter, but he opened not his mouth to appeal for aid, to defend himself, to explain the true situation. He could, but he would not, deliver himself out of the hands of those who sought his life; for this very purpose he had come into the world—to die, to be sacrificed for sins.
“THE VERY STONES WOULD CRY OUT”
Some of the Pharisees had come along, perhaps through curiosity or perhaps to act as spies—perhaps some of those with whom Judas was conferring, and who were endeavoring to decide when and how the Lord should be taken, not realizing that their powers were limited until his hour was fully come. These spoke to the disciples, requesting them to call to the attention of Jesus the language of the multitude, and to suggest that it was not appropriate for him to permit them to thus proclaim him the Messiah and King. We are to remember that Jesus did not sound a trumpet before him, prominently announcing himself as the Messiah, as impostors were in the habit of doing. For three years he had preached the Gospel, gathering his disciples, performing his miracles, but had said nothing about his being the Messiah. He allowed his disciples to wonder and the public to wonder.
Some said he was a prophet, others that he was one of the prophets risen from the dead, others that he was Elias, but Jesus himself said nothing until a few months before the time of the lesson, when he broached the matter to his disciples by asking whom they considered him to be, and Simon Peter, speaking under a measure of inspiration or guidance, declared him to be the Messiah. From that time on Jesus began to explain to them that although he was the Messiah he must suffer, and they understood not. To them it seemed that, so far from his death being near, the very reverse was true. Some of the people were just getting awake to his greatness and power, others were just finding out that Messiah had really come—it could not be, they thought, that their Master would be crucified. They considered this one of his dark sayings.
But Jesus would not bid the multitude stop. On the contrary, he explained that their shouts were but a fulfilment of a prophecy made centuries before by Zechariah (9:9)—”Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold thy King cometh unto thee: he is just and having salvation; lowly and riding upon an ass.” Furthermore, by way of emphasizing the matter, by way of convincing his disciples that he was the very one mentioned by the prophet, he declared that if the multitude had not broken forth in a shout the very stones of the ground must have shouted, because thus God had caused it to be written aforetime in the prophecy, and not one jot or tittle of the divine declaration could fail. A little later on, when our Lord and his followers had reached the Temple, the shoutings of “Hosanna” were renewed; and in that connection it is particularly mentioned that the children joined in the shouting, in accord with the words of the Scripture—”Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings thou hast ordained praise.”
THE TIME OF THEIR VISITATION
How remarkable is this scene!—the people of Israel waiting for Messiah for centuries, striving to be ready to be his peculiar people, to be associated with him in his Kingdom work, in the blessing of all the nations of the earth their religious teachers, with broad phylacteries and many outward manifestations of piety, zeal for the law and for the Sabbath, and claiming to be waiting for the Messiah, were all unprepared, not in the heart condition which alone would be able to recognize the Messiah—”blind,” leading the blind multitude who were too confidently trusting in them.
On the other hand the apostles, ignorant and unlearned men from Galilee, at a distance from the advantages of Judea, were the chief supporters and backers of Messiah. The crowd around him and favoring him, recognizing him, shouting his praises, were common people, many of them strangers to those parts, who had fewer advantages religiously than the people of Jerusalem. Amongst the number to give him praise were the little uninstructed children. How strange the scene appears, and yet it is no more strange than at present. Again we are in the days of the Son of man—again the doctors of the law, doctors of divinity and chief priests and scribes and learned professors and prominent church people, professing faithfulness to the Lord and praying continually, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven,” are blind to the fact of our Lord’s second coming, to the fact that we are now living in the days of the Son of man.”—Matt. 24:37-39.
Only a few realize the situation and they are chiefly of the Nazareth and Galilean type, not highly esteemed amongst men and in religious circles—thought to be rather peculiar at very best. These alone to-day are hailing Emanuel, shouting his praises and laying at his feet their garments of praise and the palm branches of such victories as they can gain on behalf of the Truth in conflict with the world, the flesh and the devil.
“YOUR HOUSE IS LEFT UNTO YOU DESOLATE”
The little procession was not long in passing from Bethany to the knoll of the Mount of Olives, which overlooks Jerusalem. Here the Master stopped and the multitude with him, their attention riveted upon the city and the King. They knew not the importance of the moment, they realized not that the great clock of the universe was striking, that a new dispensational change was taking place, that the favor which God had for centuries bestowed upon Israel as a nation was about to pass from them, because they were not as a nation in heart readiness to receive the blessings and privileges proffered to them.
And it is not for us to mourn that they were not ready—rather it is for us to realize that the plan of God was not thwarted nor hindered by their unreadiness; and in God’s providence, as he had foreknown and foretold, the fall of natural Israel from divine favor was about to open the way for so many of the Gentiles as were ready
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for the blessing, to come into divine favor, and become with the elect of natural Israel members of spiritual Israel. The Master saw all this, and as it was the marked-out divine plan he murmured not in any particular, and yet he wept as he beheld the city, as he thought of the privileges that were about to be removed from Israel as a nation, and how instead of blessings there would come upon them as a consequence of their rejection of their opportunities a “great time of trouble,” awful trouble. He felt now as he expressed himself a few days later as they wept with him on the way to Calvary, “Weep not for me, weep for yourselves.”
By way of identifying the transpiring events in the minds of his followers, even in this day, our Lord uttered audibly the words, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, ‘Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.'”—Matt. 23:37-39.
WHAT THE SENTENCE IMPLIED
Our Lord’s words emphasize five points:
(1) The Jews as the natural seed of Abraham had the first opportunity under the divine arrangement of becoming fully and exclusively the elect of God, the Church, the Bride, the Lamb’s wife. But only a remnant of them were worthy, because only a remnant were in the heart condition of Israelites indeed. The majority were praying to the Lord with their lips while their hearts were far from him, as Jesus declared.
(2) The time had come for the end of their national favor. The “house of Israel” according to the flesh had received all the favor God intended for it up to this time, and now, being found wanting, it was cast aside—”Your house is left unto you desolate.”
(3) When that typical house of servants was left desolate it furnished the opportunity for the installation of the antitypical house of sons. The Apostle expresses this, saying, “Moses, verily, was faithful as a servant over his house, but Christ as a Son over his house [house of sons]; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.”—Heb. 3:5,6.
(4) Our Lord’s absence during the period of the selection of spiritual Israel is indicated by his statement that natural Israel should see him no more “until that day.” Spiritual Israel would see him, but only with the eye of faith, as our Lord again expressed it—”Yet a little while and the world seeth me no more, but ye shall see me.”
(5) Our Lord’s words indicate further that when that day shall come the blindness of natural Israel shall be turned away, their eyes of understanding shall open, and they also will see out of the obscurity, out of the darkness under which they were then laboring and under which they have been for more than eighteen centuries of this Gospel age.
The Apostle emphasizes this point, telling us that as soon as the spiritual Israel class has been completed and glorified, then favor shall return to natural Israel, and the blindness which came upon them because of the rejection of Messiah and because their house was rejected from the Lord’s favor will pass away—”All Israel shall be saved” from their blindness. The Lord through the prophet tells the same thing, assuring us that in that day he will pour out his Spirit upon the house of David and the house of Judah, and they shall look upon him whom they have pierced and shall mourn because of him. He assures us that in that day he will pour upon them the spirit of prayer and supplication.
How glad we are for these assurances that God hath not cast away perpetually the natural seed of Abraham, whom he foreknew and to whom pertained the promises, and who are sure to get a share in those promises, although they have forfeited their privileges as respects the chief part, concerning which the Apostle declares, Israel hath not obtained it, but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded. So, then, while sympathizing with Israel in their loss, we rejoice that in God’s providence our eyes have seen and our ears have heard of the King and his Kingdom, and that we have become his spiritual Israel and are to be with him the seed of Abraham, through whom all the families of the earth will be blessed, natural Israel being the first of those who will receive the divine favor.
“Ride on triumphantly, O Lord,
Pride and ambition at thy feet we lay.
Our eyes are opening and we hear thy Word;
We are thy followers, lead thou the way
To victory over sin and death and grave.”
SPIRITUAL ISRAEL’S ANTITYPE
The Scriptures clearly indicate that spiritual Israel, as the antitype of natural Israel, will similarly have a great testing in the end of this period or age; that a harvest time for the gathering of the wheat is the consummation or closing of both the Jewish and the Gospel ages; that a terrible time of trouble, symbolized by fire upon the chaff of the Jewish age and by fire burning the tares in the end of the Gospel age, will prepare the way for the grander dispensation to follow the glorious reign of Messiah. The Scriptures declare that as our Lord proved a stone of stumbling to the great mass of nominal Israel after the flesh at his first advent, so he will be for a stone of stumbling to spiritual Israel, his second house, at his second advent.
We are, therefore, to expect that now in this harvest as in the harvest at the end of the Jewish age, the great mass of the Lord’s professed people will be unready, and stumble, and go into the great time of trouble which will wind up this age. While sympathizing with the conditions, while weeping as our dear Redeemer wept over the natural house, while saying, Babylon is fallen, as he then declared, “Your house is left unto you desolate,” we nevertheless learn to rejoice in the outworkings of the divine plan, realizing them to be the very embodiment of justice, wisdom, love. And the more deeply we inquire into the Word of the Lord, the more do we see that his love has still wonderful provisions in the future for many who are not found worthy to be of the very elect, the house of sons, but who may come into divine favor on a lower plan during the Millennial age.
Those who did receive the Lord at his first advent, those who were “Israelites indeed in whom there was no guile,” not only were kept from stumbling over the Lord, but, instead of becoming a stumbling-stone to them, by the grace of God he became a stepping-stone to the higher and grander things of this Gospel age, to the great spiritual blessings which began at Pentecost.
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And so now, while the mass of nominal spiritual Israel, Christendom, are stumbling in the time of the second presence, we need have no doubt that all who are now spiritual Israelites indeed will be found of the Lord and gathered into his garner; and that while the masses of professors will stumble, all of this class will find the Lord and the present Truth a stepping-stone to the still grander and still higher new dispensation to which we will be ushered in, not by another Pentecost, but by the glorious change of the first resurrection, which shall make us like our Lord, spirit beings, partakers of the divine nature.
This class, prepared for this blessing and exaltation, will be found—much like the class at the first advent—to contain not many great, not many wise, not many learned, but Israelites indeed, sincere lovers of the Truth, willing at heart at least to lay down their lives for the Lord and for the brethren. To them also come the Lord’s comforting words, “Blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear.” Even in the present time they have a blessing, before the change.
THE JEWS SOUGHT SIGNS, THE GREEKS WISDOM
John’s account does not give all the details respecting the entry into the Temple, but, passing over some of these, enumerates an incident that occurred probably a day or two afterward while our Lord was preaching in the Temple. Certain Greeks, realizing that the Lord was not appreciated by his hearers, apparently thought to invite him to go with them to their homes, not realizing the plan of God in respect to his great sacrifice. They requested an audience with Jesus, and, naturally enough, went to Philip and Andrew, whose names of Greek origin implied that they had a knowledge of the Greek language. These made known the matter to Jesus, who, however, merely used the incident for an opportunity to impress still further the lesson of the hour, that the time had come for him to be glorified—not glorified in the way that his disciples and friends had expected and hoped, but glorified in the higher sense which our Lord realized. He knew that his hour was approaching in which he was to be crucified, and that his obedience unto death, even the death of the cross, was the condition upon which his high exaltation in the divine plan was made to hinge. His heart, fully consecrated, was merely waiting for the opportunity to finish the work which the Father had given him to do.
“IF A GRAIN OF WHEAT DIE”
Our Lord answered in a dark saying, in a parable, “Except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth by itself alone; but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit.” No wonder that the apostles and the Jews were mystified by such statements of the truth. Indeed we know from other Scriptures that the majority of our Lord’s teachings were not expected nor intended to be understood until after Pentecost—after the holy Spirit of adoption would enlighten their understandings. Now, by reason of this enlightenment, we are privileged to appreciate the rich depths of our Lord’s statement.
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We see that if Jesus had kept his life, had not sacrificed it, he might indeed have maintained it forever, but he would not in that event have been privileged to bestow life upon the Church and the world. His death, the just for the unjust, applied to his believing disciples, justified them to life, “through faith in his blood.” His death thus brings forth choice fruit in his Church, his Bride, his Members. And, indirectly, the fruitage will be still larger, for his disciples, justified through faith in his blood, are invited and privileged to lay down their lives with his, to become dead with him. The results or fruitage in their case as members of his body means a still larger crop in the age to come. Otherwise stated, our Lord as the one grain brings forth much fruit, an hundred and forty and four thousand, besides the “great company” whose number is known to no man. And through the hundred and forty and four thousand, his representatives, his members, the result will ultimately be a still larger fruitage, when all the families of the earth shall have the fullest opportunity of reconciliation to the Father and of life everlasting upon the divine conditions.
TERMS OF DISCIPLESHIP
Stating matters far beyond the comprehension of his hearers, our Lord proceeded to mark out the course of his immediate followers in language which they would understand after the begetting of the Spirit, after Pentecost, saying, “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” That is to say, if we esteem highly our present existence, under present imperfect conditions, we will not be willing to lay down our lives in the Lord’s service in the hope of future life, seen only by the eye of faith.
We must love less the present life under present imperfect conditions in order to appreciate more the eternal life under better conditions. Whoever is satisfied with the sinful and imperfect condition in the present life is in no state of mind to become the Lord’s disciple. Being satisfied with present conditions, he will be unwilling to sacrifice them for the really better ones which the Lord commends. We have no reason to think that the Lord’s words apply beyond this Gospel age—in the Millennial age things will be greatly transformed, reorganized. The Lord’s language limits the matter saying, “in this world,”—that is, this kosmos or order of things.
Still continuing to explain the requirements of present discipleship, our Lord declares, If any man will be my servant let him follow me; where I am there will also my servant be. By this language our Lord shows that his faithful followers shall ultimately share his divine nature in the spirit realm. Again he states the same matter in different language, saying, “If any man will serve me, him will the Father honor.” The Father honored the Son because of his faithfulness even unto death; the Father accepts as sons the followers of the Son, justified through his blood; and those who are faithful in walking in his steps the Father will surely honor as he honored Jesus, the first-born, whom he raised from the dead to glory, honor and immortality, far above angels, principalities and powers and every name that is named. Let us all be faithful followers.