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VOL. XXVI. MAY 15, 1905. No. 10
Views from the Watch Tower……………………147
The Wrong-Headedness of Higher Criticism……147
Pope Pius X. and France…………………148
Holy Russia in the Balances………………149
Ingersoll’s Chances for Salvation…………150
Rev. S. G. Lee’s Dream of the Future Church…151
The Greatest Event of History…………………152
“Via Dolorosa”—the Way of the Cross………153
Killing the Prince of Life………………154
“Sitting Down, they Watched Him There”……155
A Little Talk with Jesus (Poem)………………156
“I am Alive Forevermore”……………………156
“Many Infallible Proofs”…………………157
Why the Different Forms?…………………158
“Whosesoever Sins Ye Remit”………………159
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VIEWS FROM THE WATCH TOWER
THE WRONG-HEADEDNESS OF HIGHER CRITICISM
EMIL REICH, a Hungarian writer, discussing and contradicting the conclusions of Higher Critics, in the Contemporary Review, says,—”The complete wrong-headedness of the whole method of higher criticism cannot fail to be manifest to anybody who bases his judgments upon the true essence of the matter in dispute, and not upon mere externals.
“Some of the latest samples of philological jugglery with which the public has been duped are too amusing to be omitted. If only read from the humorous standpoint, it is doubtful whether any book could afford a merrier half-hour than one of the latest achievements of Prof. Hugo Winckler—two volumes in which he finally dissolves into myth the small portion of Jewish history which had been mercifully left to us. Listen a while, and you shall hear how Jewish tradition is a mere flimsy plagiarism of Babylonian myths. Among the general massacre of Biblical personalities we can only mention a few of the victims. What person has hitherto been more historical than Joseph? But to Professor Winckler he is an obvious astral myth, for in the 43d chapter of Genesis, verse 25, does he not come at noon? And is not this clear enough proof that he is a mere personification of the sun? Besides, if we are disposed to doubt, we must recollect that Joseph dreamed that the sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed down to him; and who should they bow to save the sun? Joshua, too, is the sun. For he is the son of Nun, and does not Nun, being interpreted, mean fish? and does not the sun at the spring equinox issue from the constellation of Pisces? What could be more conclusive? Besides, does it not amply explain why Joshua’s companion is Caleb? Now Caleb is Kaleb, and Kaleb is Kelb, and Kelb is a dog. So of course Caleb is clearly put for the dog star Sirius.” This, as he suggests, is “philology run mad” and “utter misconception.”
“They imagine because they have been able to trace similarities, or even identities, between the purely external phenomena of Judaism or of Christianity and the religious ceremonials of ancient Babylonia, that they have thereby proved that Christianity and Judaism are nothing but cribs of what the Babylonians long before possessed.” But “within the last few weeks matter has been published which should finally turn the higher critics out of the position in which they have been so long comfortably entrenched.”
Reference is here made to the recent discovery in east Africa, of an obscure tribe of negroes, whose religious myths and traditions show an extraordinary similarity to those of the Hebrew Scriptures. Herr Reich argues that this confirms the thought that Babylonia and other lands possessing such religious foundations got them from the Hebrews; contradicting the “higher critical thought” that the Hebrew ideas on religious subjects were but a rehash of what the people of Babylonia possessed long, long before Moses’ day. Continuing on this line he says:
“Arabia, at all times the ‘store chamber of nations,’ was never able to feed her untold thousands of hardy, beautiful, gifted people. Accordingly, they emigrated in all directions, as they did in the times of Mohammed and at other times. Thousands of years before Christ a stock of religious and other legends had grown up among them about the great riddles of the world. This they carried into their new countries; and thus the Babylonians, the Hebrews, the Masai, and very probably many another now unknown tribe from Arabia, whether in Persia, Afghanistan, Beluchistan, or India, preserved, and still preserves, the legends about creation, the deluge, the decalogue, etc., in their aboriginal form. It is just as possible, with purely philological arguments, to deduce the Masai legends from Hebrew stories as it is to deduce Hebrew legends from Babylonian myths. Or, to put it in a different fashion, the same philological arguments that have served to declare the Hebrew legends as mere copies of Babylonian myths, may now be employed in proving that all the Hebrew legends are of Masai origin, or vice versa. This absolute inability of the philological method of higher criticism to decide definitely which is the parent and which the child, at once condemns it.” …
“It is evident that philological reasoning which brings us to results which are so little permanent, results which are absolutely overturned by the first chance discovery, must have something fundamentally wrong in it. This fundamental and initial vice, quod tractu temporis convalescere nequit [which the lapse of time cannot heal], which can be cured neither by the moderation and
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soberness of Hommel, who together with a few other historians has not yet given in to the claims of the ‘higher critics’, nor by a still greater refinement of philological methods—this initial fault has vitiated and will vitiate all modern hypercriticism of ancient records. Nor is there any particular difficulty in finding out the true nature of this fault. It is this: The history of the ancient nations must be constructed not on the basis of the philological study of their records, but mainly on the basis of considerations of geography, or, as the present writer has ventured to call it, of geo-politics. What made the few tribes, ‘Semitic’ or other, in Palestine, Syria, and Phenicia, so important a factor in history was neither their language nor their ‘race’. The Hebrews and the Phenicians have indeed played in history a role of the first magnitude. So have, even in a greater measure, the Hellenes. All the three were—and this is the capital point—border-nations proper. They lived on the great line of friction between the powerful and civilized inland empires of Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, the Hittites, the Phrygians, the Lydians, etc. All these inland empires necessarily, and as a matter of history, gravitated toward the ‘Great Sea,’ or the Mediterranean; all the peoples on the ‘line’ between the Mediterranean and the territories of the conflicting empires were then necessarily exposed to the maximum of friction, danger, and deeply agitated activity. Those nations were called the Hellenes, the Phenicians, the Hebrews, the Edomites, etc. Being in imminent danger of absorption at the hands of the empires, those nations could not but see, and did see, that they could protect themselves with success only by having recourse either to the immense leverage of sea-power, which the empires did not possess; or by energizing themselves both intellectually and politically to a degree much more intense than the empires had ever done. Accordingly some of them were forced to lay extraordinary premiums on higher intellect and spiritual growth, by means of which they resisted the more massive onslaught of the intellectually inferior empires. … That gigantic intellectual struggles, such as those border nations were forced to undertake or else perish, can not be conducted without personalities of the first order, only a mere text-critic can doubt. One may deny the existence of the Jews; but once their existence is conceded one can not deny the existence of Moses. One may deny the existence of the Carthusians; but once their existence, i.e., their secular spiritual struggle with all the forces of life is admitted, one can not possibly deny the historic existence of St. Bruno. One may minimize, or doubt the Reformation; but certainly not Luther. Higher criticism has arrived at its final term: bankruptcy.”
POPE PIUS X. AND FRANCE
The conflict between the French government and the Pope continues and is expected soon to result in the dissolution of the “Concordat” and thus in a complete separation of Church and State in France. The “Concordat” is an agreement in writing under which France is bound to support and defend Roman Catholicism in France and to some extent its missions, etc., in foreign lands. In consideration of this the papacy acknowledges the right of the French government to have a voice in determining who may or may not be the bishops, arch-bishops and cardinals of France.
The present trouble, it will be remembered, began with the determination of the French to put their schools on a higher level, to accomplish which, necessitated the prohibiting of further teaching by Jesuits, nuns and others of monastic orders, in their official garbs, etc. In other words France wanted such Free Schools as have so greatly profited the people of the United States. This led to wordy-strife, many ecclesiastics attacking and denouncing the Government. These in turn were opposed by the Government which speaking for the majority of the people, declared such strife to be against France, and some of the bitterest, accused of attempts to foment rebellion and civil commotion were expelled from the country.
As one bishopric after another became vacant and a successor was nominated by the Pope he was seen to be of the bitter anti-France kind and was refused under the terms of the “Concordat.” The Pope has refused to nominate other bishops more acceptable to the French until now ten bishoprics or sees are vacant, and the Catholic populations of the same are, it is claimed, suffering “spiritual deprivations” as a consequence. We doubt this, but it is a cause for continued and increasing friction.
France is firm and declares she will cut the “Concordat” knot and be free to manage her own Church affairs—either paying such priests and bishops, etc., as she chooses or leaving them as in the United States to be supported by the people who desire them. The latter
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plan is not likely, however, because the French people, unused to paying their preachers, could not be expected to voluntarily contribute more than a tithe of the amount now paid to support the clergy, and because the Government and wealthier class would fear to lose a restraint over the masses maintainable through a paid ministry.
The Pope is blamed by many “liberal” French Catholics for being short-sighted and likely to do great injury to Romanism. The Pope on the contrary declares that he is quite willing that France should do her worst, declares that he will not recede, and that the breaking of the “Concordat” will furnish him the better opportunity to “purge” the French clergy amongst whom he implies there is serious unfaithfulness—the result of their semi-political appointments.
A writer in The Edinburgh Review criticizes the Pope’s course as unwise and says:—
“Certain prelates of unblemished reputation, whose only offenses are their attitude of reserve toward the congregations (religious orders), their refusal to support the campaign against the republic, and—in a few cases—their sympathy with the movement toward a scientific theology, are already marked out for attack. The refusal of Rome to institute to the ten sees now vacant gives color to this belief, which is entertained in quarters usually well informed and has been encouraged by the clerical press. This process of ‘purging’ would be facilitated by the repeal of the Concordat.”
The writer thinks that then,—
“The bishops and higher clergy would be simply nominees of Rome. Thus the rights of the laity, surviving, however faintly, under the present system, as in our own ‘conge d’elire,’ would be extinguished; thus the last vestige of popular election, without which the early church refused to acknowledge a bishop as legitimately appointed, would disappear. The present method of selection is not ideal. ‘Le gouvernement propose un fripon; Rome un cure de campagne: on nomme un imbecile’ [‘The Government proposes a rascal; Rome a country pastor; an idiot is appointed’] said a cynic.”
We cannot concur in this view. If the French Government shall “hire” the priests and bishops, Rome’s nominations will be of insignificant force, unless
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done privately, through the people. The same writer gives the following portrait of the Pope, which at least gives him credit for sincerity.
“Everything is against him: his seminary training, his provincialism, his seclusion from the free air of the world. France—her people, her history, her language even—is strange to him: he sees ‘men as trees, walking’; he misconceives the situation with which he has to deal. He sees, because he is prepared to see it, an atheist ministry kept in power by the vote of a godless majority; persecuted religious—guileless Jesuits and peace-loving Assumptionists—secularism rampant in the schools; unbelief, in the shape of criticism, invading the clergy; religion attacked from without and from within. And his singleness of purpose forbids him to take into account the motives of prudence that would have weighed with his predecessor: he is for rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, sword as well as trowel in hand.”
“As to the reasons for the estrangement from religion of so large a proportion of the French people thoughtful Catholics are pretty well agreed. They hold Rome to be chiefly responsible. The Vatican, they say, has for the last half-century and more persistently encouraged fanatics and crushed every movement that promised to bring about a revival of religion in France. There have been several such movements since the time of Lamennais, and they have all met the same fate as that with which he was identified. In the early nineties there was a great revival of enthusiasm among French Catholics; partly, at least due to the encyclical Rerum Novarum of Leo XIII. and other utterances of the late Pope which seemed to be progressive in tendency. This enthusiasm found expression in such organizations as the ‘Union progressiste de la Jeunesse catholique,’ of which M. Felix Boudin was the founder. The movement was bitterly opposed by the Ultramontane party in France, but it grew stronger and more influential in spite of their opposition until at last Rome, as usual, yielded to the fanatics, and the movement was ended by the letter of Leo XIII. condemning ‘Americanism’ in January, 1899.
“If ever a Pope had need of accurate information and prudent counsel, that Pope is Pius X. Never was the incompatibility between Catholicism, as a polity, and society more palpable; never was the opposition between Catholic teaching, as commonly presented, and science more radical or more widely felt. This incompatibility and this opposition have reached their climax in France.”
In our opinion the Lord is overruling in France, as elsewhere to the intent that now in this “harvest” time his sincere truth-hungry people may be fed the meat in due season, each according to his condition and hunger. Whoever overlooks the supervision of our present Lord in the affairs of the nations and churches of “Christendom,” ignores the principal factors in the momentous events through which the world is now passing, and which will culminate in anarchy, worldwide, by the end of A.D., 1914, according to our reading of the prophetic Word.
HOLY RUSSIA IN THE BALANCES
Many of the Russians are very religious. In their estimation the term “Holy Russia” is applied in all sincerity. To them (as to the Chinese) all the remainder of the world is benighted and barbarian. The Czar is their emperor and pope. God is the “Great Father,” the Czar is the “Little Father.” To them the fulfilment of our Lord’s prayer petition, “Thy Kingdom come,” means the spread of the Russian empire over all the earth.
Some time ago they were mere serfs—slaves to the Nobles. The reform movement of some time since, changing all that and making the people free, was hailed as a boon from heaven through the “Little Father.” The measure was really a good one, but in selfish hands it has been perverted. Instead of the many nobles, Russia now has, besides the Czar, his close relatives, the Grand Dukes, under whom a bureaucracy has sprung up that oppresses both the nobles, used to favor, and the people who, released from slavery, had hoped for so much more liberty and prosperity. Thus it happens that Russia is full of discontent and both the upper and the lower classes are longing for a change. The Czar no doubt is doing his best, but is in a trying position. His close relatives as his advisers control the army of office-holders, who, drawn from the lower social planes, are their willing tools—each for his price, of imperial favor and financial prosperity.
The shaking which Russia is experiencing from the Japanese is joined to the shaking and discontent at home, and the results look ominous. Where it will end none can tell. The shaking will no doubt awaken the poor, ignorant peasantry and at a great cost of pain and sorrow may prove a blessing in disguise. The N.Y. Sun gives particulars respecting a great revolutionary demonstration recently at the renowned University of St. Petersburg, participated in by the faculty as well as the students. The meeting denounced the government, tore a portrait of the Czar to shreds and displayed a red flag and a motto, “Hail to the Constituent Assembly.” It voted to discontinue the work of the University for the remainder of the term and passed
RESOLUTIONS AS FOLLOWS:
“Effete Russian absolutism is drawing daily—nay, hourly—to its inevitable doom. Powerless to cope with an awakened people, in its agony it devises one measure more ridiculous than another and one method more reckless than another to delay its downfall.
“It entered upon a criminal adventure in the Far East, which has cost the people tens of thousands of lives and millions of hard-earned money. Conscious of its goal, the intelligence of the students has long conducted a stubborn fight to obtain the most elementary human rights, often falling fainting before the brutal force of an unbridled Government until at last the proletariat entered the historic arena, and at the same time, as it came to the knowledge of itself, dealt czardom the heaviest blows.
“The recent bloody events have clearly shown what absolutism is capable of in defense of its pitiful, shameful existence. The sincere, fraternal, harmonious action of the proletariat on those days of January signed the death-warrant of absolutism and without doubt insured the speedy political liberation of Russia.
“We, as a section of the educated community, conscious of our goal, welcome the solidarity of workmen and put forward the following demands:
“First—Summoning a legislative assembly on the basis of a universal, equal, and secret ballot of male and female citizens; freedom of speech; freedom of the press; freedom of organization and of striking.
“Second—Amnesty for all who have been punished for their political or religious convictions.
“Third—The fact of belonging to any particular nationality shall not prejudice political rights.
“Further, as a guarantee against interference of the Russian Government in the free execution of these demands, a people’s militia must immediately be formed, in whose ranks all citizens can fight to realize our aspirations.
“Recognizing the significance of this historical
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moment, when Russia is emerging from a period of ferment into open revolt, and when every one has but one end in view, we can not pursue our studies, and therefore suspend them until September. By that time events will have furnished new material for the solution of these questions.”
HOW RUSSIAN NOBILITY VIEW THINGS
The following is from the N.Y. Tribune, an editorial.
“A significant light is cast upon the state of unrest pervading all classes in Russia by the personal message of a prominent Russian to a friend in this country which we are permitted to publish. For obvious reasons it would not do to give the writer’s name or furnish any hint of his identity. He belongs, however, to a wealthy family which is on terms of intimacy with the imperial household. He is related to members of the Ministry and is himself a high official. His message was written in French on one of the Red Cross picture postal cards which have been sold in large numbers to swell the fund to care for the victims of Japanese bullets. His words, literally translated, are:
“‘I had wished to write thee a letter, above all, about our ideas on the war. The war is most unpopular, and we all desire our own defeat. We hope that it will open the eyes of the common people to the fraud of our government, which is universally hated. One hears on all sides that the Japanese are fighting for our freedom—there is nowhere the slightest feeling against the Japanese.’
“How this remarkable sentiment ever came to be let out of Russia is a subject for speculation, but certainly it came out by mail and was duly delivered in this country by the postal authorities. … If on ‘all sides’ among the Russian upper classes it is said that the Japanese are fighting for Russian freedom and an intelligent Russian can report ‘we all desire our own defeat,’ on what a precarious foundation must the whole bureaucracy, with its domestic and foreign troubles, stand? However we may consider this letter, it is prophetic of important changes in Russian society.”
* * *
The world is making history very rapidly. One year counts for almost as much as fifty long ago,—for more indeed. How easily all we expect of Scripture fulfilment can come about by October, 1914!
INGERSOLL’S CHANCES FOR SALVATION
A minister having expressed hope that Robert Ingersoll may be reckoned amongst the saved, the New York Herald sent reporters to interview ministers of various denominations on the subject. Some of the replies quoted below seem peculiar, to say the least. The keynote of all is that Faith is not essential; a contradiction to the Scriptural declaration that—”without faith it is impossible to please God,” and many others of like import. We quote:
The Rev. William B. Bodine, rector of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the Savior, said: “I do not know why any agnostic, if honest in his beliefs, should not enter the Kingdom of heaven.”
What kind of a Kingdom does this gentleman—titled, ordained, and doubtless esteemed, but Scripturally an unlearned “teacher”—imagine? He certainly does not stumble into the erroneous idea that each denomination of Christendom is a Kingdom of heaven, for doubtless, he knows that Ingersoll was not a member of any of them in his lifetime, and could not join any of them since. We are bound to suppose that he has in mind the glorious Kingdom to be established at our Lord’s second advent, respecting which he said to his apostles and footstep followers: “Fear not, little flock; it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.” Our Lord again said to his followers, “Through much tribulation shall ye enter the Kingdom;” and again, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” and “Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven;” and again, “Except a man be born again he cannot enter the Kingdom of heaven.”
We have no unkind word or wish for Mr. Ingersoll, but we confess that we never knew him as meek or “poor in spirit,” nor as persecuted for righteousness, nor as “born again,” nor as one of the Lord’s jewels, his “little flock.” If this reverend gentleman teaches truthfully on this subject we would like very much to hear him tell us just what classes of men are outside the “little flock” and not “born again.”
The Rev. Chas. W. Bickley, of the Mariners’ Methodist Episcopal Bethel, said: “I cannot believe that an all-merciful Father will punish his erring children when they unknowingly disregard his divinity. Ingersoll’s many good acts and strict moral life will plead with him who abundantly pardons.”
Here an appeal is made to divine mercy regardless of the divine testimony that all of God’s mercy is exercised through Christ—that “there is none other name given, under heaven or amongst men, whereby we must be saved.” Hope built on any other foundation is false hope. And any teaching of any other hope is false teaching.
We are glad to note the sentiment of compassion expressed, but must repudiate the thought, that Ingersoll or any other member of the human family has or ever had such acts and morals as would plead his cause with God and secure his forgiveness. If that be true teaching it would follow that Christ died in vain, “the just for the unjust to bring us to God,”—then every man should be told to let his acts and morals “plead” for him.
Ingersoll’s acts and morals do not need to “plead” for him; because God had compassion on him and all of our race before we were born, and sent forth his Son to redeem us all from our death sentence and to make possible to all a return to divine favor. All must learn of this favor in God’s “due time,” and if the present life was not Ingersoll’s due time to learn of God’s grace his will surely come to him in the future life. And he will have a full opportunity to profit by the “resurrection by judgments.”—John 5:28,29.
The Rev. Dr. William Lyons, of the First Unitarian Church of Brookline, said that “the statement of the clergyman who said that if Ingersoll was sincere and honest in his belief he would be saved, is morally all right. We must all come to the truth, and Ingersoll, no matter what his belief, has come to the truth in the life hereafter.”
This reverend gentleman’s views would be amusing were the subject a less serious one. We could have agreed had he said that Mr. Ingersoll will come to a knowledge of the truth in the life hereafter, but we deny that he could come to any knowledge in death, because, as the Scriptures declare, “The dead know not anything.” “There is neither wisdom nor knowledge nor device in the grave.” (Eccl. 9:10.) How then can it be said that dead
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Mr. Ingersoll “has” come to knowledge beyond that enjoyed while alive? As to how he “has” attained knowledge in “the life hereafter” is not explained. The life hereafter is still future, and must be entered upon before any knowledge respecting it can be acquired.
Rt. Rev. Jas. A. McFaul, Bishop of Trenton, said: “Robert Ingersoll evidently owed his prejudice against Christianity to his early Calvinistic experience. Had he studied the doctrines and practices of the Catholic Church he would have beyond doubt regarded Christianity in a more favorable light. If he was sincere in his belief and lived a moral life we are allowed to hope that God has shown him mercy.”
Like the minister first quoted, Bishop McFaul evidently thinks that an “agnostic” can be honest in his “beliefs.” But here we are in trouble, for the word “agnostic” signifies without belief; and Ingersoll, a professed and boasted agnostic, could not therefore be considered “honest in his beliefs” when he had none. The gentleman must therefore be understood to mean that he was honest in his disbeliefs.
The bishop kindly says: “We are allowed to hope that God has shown him mercy.” We fear that his kindness of heart led the bishop to abbreviate his statement of his “hopes,” and that many readers will not accurately understand his words unless we amplify for him, as we are about to do. When he says, “We are allowed to hope,” it implies that the teachings of Roman Catholicism grant the hope. Only, therefore, when we know those teachings can we properly weigh the bishop’s hope for Ingersoll. Thus delimited it is—
(1) A hope that although a hell of everlasting and untellable anguish is set forth as the penalty of all heretics—all living in Christian lands and not giving adherence to the Church of Rome,—yet as a glimmer of hope is held out for all heathens and idiots, or others not knowingly and willingly opposed to Papacy, so there is such an allowance of hope for Ingersoll.
(2) But what does this “hope” amount to? This: That he has gone to Purgatory for hundreds or perhaps thousands of years, and may hope “some sweet day” to get out of it and into heaven. This is either a warm or a cold hope, according to chance, as taught by Doctor Dante in his great poem, “Inferno.” He pictures some frozen solid in the ice, and others in other quarters burning in fiery ovens.
The bishop is “allowed to hope” that Ingersoll will get the full limit of punishment, hot or cold or alternated, because he left no money to pay for masses, nor has he friends who will spend their money for them thus to secure a curtailment of his sentence.
No intelligent Catholic can, on reflection, doubt that we have rightly outlined the bishop’s “hope,” for if bishops,
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archbishops, cardinals and even popes must tarry for a longer or shorter period in purgatory, according to Catholic doctrine, it follows, as beyond peradventure, that Ingersoll would be required to tarry quite a while in Inferno to get rid of his unbeliefs, etc.
The Rev. A. A. Berle, Congregationalist, said: “Colonel Ingersoll was a brave, chivalrous, high-hearted man, resolute in his championship of what he believed to be true, infinitely more to be respected than certain clerical infidels who discredit both the gospel and the Bible by covert insinuations. Peace to his ashes!”
We are pleased to find in the list of comments this one which we can unqualifiedly endorse. Mr. Ingersoll’s outspoken opposition to the Bible is indeed to his credit as compared with the covert attacks on the Bible of so-called “higher critics,” who in the name of the Lord and under vows of belief and under pay as defenders of the faith, are doing all in their power to undermine the Scriptures. Yes, Ingersoll was saintly as compared with these.
“Peace be to his ashes!” We can agree to this, too. His ashes are in the cold ground. He is suffering nothing, enjoying nothing, simply waiting unconsciously for the Lord’s Millennial Kingdom, which will overthrow sin and every evil, causing the knowledge of the Lord to fill the earth, and calling forth from the tomb all of our race to test their willingness to live everlastingly, righteously, under reasonable conditions, or die the second death as utter reprobates. We have hope that Ingersoll when called forth from the tomb will be one of many to accept and obey the new government and share the blessing of the destruction of sin and all enemies, even “the last enemy”—death.
DR. S. G. LEE’S FUNNY DREAM OF THE FUTURE CHURCH
“The Christian religion is facing the most obstinate and bewildering crisis in its history. The Church is not in a commanding position because the rest of the world is more eloquent than we are—is not so bodiless. The new Church is going to be the next feat of the Strong Man. He has attended to the other things. The iron in the ground in America—the unborn iron—is organized into a steel trust. The very coal, down in its thousands of years’ sleep in the earth, is massed or nearly all massed and is getting ready to move as one body for the winter. The very ice on the ponds, before it is frozen, has a body all waiting for it, distributing it to its finger-tips in the great cities. Even sugar has a body. Millions of hens are laying eggs to-day as if they were one hen, for a syndicate out in Chicago. We are familiar enough with the fact that all powerful ideas are magnificently organized, and insist on having bodies. It is the fundamental fact that every man is dealing with, in the conduct of his business every year, and yet right in the midst of it we have the spectacle of the Christian churches still clinging to a sort of pleasant basket-picnic idea of religion, separate churches, separate denominations of separate churches, flocking feebly together on the round earth, each family bringing its own little basket of its own special food and keeping a little apart and chewing on it, looking over its shoulders at the others perhaps now and then in a sort of empty, anxious, kind-hearted way—getting together for a few remarks, or a city census, possibly. But that is all.
“As I see the Church of the future, we are not going to give anything up; we are all going to have our individual ways, our chapels, but we are all going to insist upon having a great central cathedral in every city, which shall belong to all of us. The Church of the future is going to be a great spiritual metropolis, every man going there, every man belonging there. It shall be like a great worshiping street of souls. Men shall feel in Church as in some great hushed city of each other’s lives. It shall be the one place where a man can go with a whole human race and face God. It is simple enough to get people to agree if we have something big enough. It is going to be a Church where Jonathan Edwards and John Wesley and Ralph Waldo Emerson and Cardinal Newman and Luther would be able to worship in the same pew—and without having to be born several hundred years ago—to have people see that their souls belonged together. The Church of the future is going
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to give room to every man’s life while he has it. If it does this, we will all get together. And if we all get together, the cathedral is inevitable. We will soon give God a body on the earth. The Church in every town at last shall be to every man and to every growing boy the greatest thing he knows. It shall be like the sky over the other things. It shall be fair to God. I am convinced that not until we have the cathedral in every community to symbolize the oneness in the churches, and the denominational chapels clustered about it to symbolize their individuality, can we expect a Church that will at once command and invite great cities and mighty men. The nations of the earth shall be seen kneeling in it, and all the institutions of the sons of men, the universities, the corporations, the very railroads, the stately lines of ships from around the sea, shall bow themselves and the great brutal mines from the hollows of the earth—all these shall come, and be seen kneeling there before the God who is the God of all that is. To say that he is the God of all that is, is what the cathedral is for. With its hundreds of voices, its hundreds of instruments of praise, its scores of preachers, its unceasing services and kinds of services, it shall enfold all men in one prayer and song. The same men will separate to be theological, perhaps. They will need to go off into different rooms and back parlors to be intellectual, and into different offices or parish houses to perform the details and to execute the business of religion; but for worship, the one thing that all Christians have in common, they are going to unite, that the worship may be worshipful, that the spirit may have a body and God be made amazing on the earth.”—The Outlook.
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THE GREATEST EVENT OF HISTORY
—JOHN 19:17-30.—MAY 28.—
Golden Text:—”Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.”—1 Cor. 15:3.
CALVARY was the scene of the most wonderful event of history, the fulcrum as it were upon which divine Love and Justice operated for the rolling away of the curse resting upon humanity. Its site is not definitely known, yet the Latin word Calvary furnishes a clue, being an equivalent to the Hebrew word golgotha and signifying “the place of the skull.” There is a bare knoll of a hill, with two caves in the front, which, looked at from a distance has rather the appearance of a skull, the caves and the brush growing therein representing the eye sockets. It is presumed that this was the place of the crucifixion. The same custom of describing rocks and hills by things which they somewhat resemble still prevails. Thus we have Sentinel Dome and Bridal Vail Falls in the Yosemite, Pulpit Rock and Teakettle Rock in the Rocky Mountains, the Owl’s Head in the White Mountains and Caesar’s Head in the Blue Ridge.
Crucifixion is a most horrible and torturous form of death, yet it was not the torture of death which our Redeemer suffered on our behalf which so much gives us a feeling of sympathy and sorrow as our minds go back to Calvary and the scenes preceding it. Two others were crucified with Jesus; many others had suffered a similar death before and since, and some, we may presume, suffered as much or more agony through longer-drawn-out torture, gradual burning at the stake, lacerations, etc. The thought which impresses our hearts most deeply is that our dear Savior’s experiences not only were undeserved, unmerited by the one “who went about doing good,” but that his experiences were in connection with the payment of our penalty, so that “by his stripes we are healed.”—Isa. 53:5.
“THE LOVE OF CHRIST CONSTRAINETH US”
The thought that Christ died for our sins, the Just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God—that we might be restored to divine favor, released from the just curse or sentence of death which was upon us—this thought moves our hearts to loving sympathy. “The love of Christ constraineth us; and we thus judge that if one died for all, then were all dead [under just sentence of death]: and that we who live should henceforth not live unto ourselves but unto him who died for us.”—2 Cor. 5:14,15.
“In the cross of Christ we glory,
Towering o’er the wrecks of time;
All the light of sacred story
Gathers round its head sublime.”
Proportionately as in our day the D.D.’s and college professors and the “wise of this world” are denying the necessity for our Lord’s death and the value of the precious blood as an atonement for the sins of mankind, in that same proportion must those whose eyes have been opened by the grace of God to see the divine plan emphasize more and more the value of the cross as the basis of reconciliation between God and man. There is a great falling away in our day from this foundation
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feature of the Gospel. Jesus is presented as good, noble, a wonderful and wise teacher, whose words are suitable for texts and comments; but the sin of the world is denied when it is claimed that man is by an evolutionary process rising from the monkey condition to the divine likeness, and if there is no sin of the world to be atoned for, of course, the Scriptural record that Jesus made atonement for the sins of the world is in error, and this is the view that is rapidly spreading throughout Christendom and destroying all true Christian faith.
Any other faith is not the true Christian faith, not the faith once delivered to the saints, not the faith that is pleasing to God, not the faith that is the basis for justification and forgiveness of sins, not the faith that is to be respected and honored, blessed and rewarded by the Lord in due time. We cannot enunciate this matter
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too distinctly, even though it may offend some to be told that they are not Christians in the Scriptural sense of the word when they no longer hold the doctrine of the atonement through the blood of the cross—through the death of Jesus. Ultimately this doctrine will be seen to be the touchstone which will clearly show who are the Lord’s and who are not. Those who lose this hub or center of faith, lose all part and lot in Christ so far, at least, as the present age is concerned. They are no more Christians than are Mohammedans or Jews or Confucians or Brahmins. Jews, Mohammedans and infidels believe that Jesus lived and that he died and that he was a great teacher, but this does not make them Christians and does not justify them. We are justified, as the Apostle points out, “Through faith in his blood.”—Rom. 3:25.
“VIA DOLOROSA”—THE WAY OF THE CROSS
The way from Pilate’s judgment hall to Calvary was indeed a sorrowful way, a doleful way. Pilate felt uncomfortable in having done the only thing he could reasonably have been expected to do under all the circumstances. The chief priests and doctors of divinity had scored a victory, and might be expected to exult as they saw their victim led as a lamb to the slaughter. Yet we must give them credit for some conscience and must suppose that they were far from happy; that although they had said to Pilate, “His blood be upon us and upon our children” they felt a mysterious dread of this wonderful person against whom they were prevailing. To suppose that their hearts were not troubled would be to discredit them everyway. On the way tender women, not disciples of Jesus, wept as Jesus passed by. Pilate had endeavored to appeal to the accusers of Jesus by having him scourged and then presenting him before them, crying, Ecce Homo—Behold the man! Look at the man whom you are asking me to crucify: no man in all your nation has such a face and form as his; not one of you for a moment considers that he is a wicked man; his face shows to the contrary. Will you not be satisfied? Will not your anger against him be appeased by the scourging which he has received? Will you not consent that I should let him go? But all these appeals were futile. His enemies were so filled with bitterness and envy that they were blind to his personal attractions. These, however, appealed to the women as he passed; they wept. Jesus was the most composed of all in that scene, because he had the assurance that he was doing the Father’s will. This assurance had kept him calm and unmoved from the moment the angel appeared in Gethsemane to give him the word of divine favor and thus strengthen him. He was ready to endure anything that would be the Father’s will, that would carry out the Father’s plan, he had such confidence in the wisdom, the love, the justice and the power of God. To the weeping women he said, “Weep not for me, weep for yourselves”—doubtless having in mind the awful trouble which thirty-seven years after came upon that city.
“LET HIM TAKE UP HIS CROSS AND FOLLOW ME”
Jesus, bearing his cross, headed the procession, accompanied by four Roman soldiers; following came the two thieves with their crosses and four soldiers guarding each, the whole under the charge of a Centurion. Our Redeemer, less coarse by nature, less animal, more intelligent than the thieves, was probably less able naturally than they to carry the heavy timber of the cross—besides, he had been under a nervous strain and without food for about twelve hours. Evidently he was scarcely able to carry his load, and the Centurion compelled Simon of Cyrene, a countryman, to bear the cross after Jesus. Whether this means that he walked behind Jesus in the procession, carrying the cross, or that he carried the hinder part of the cross with Jesus, is uncertain; but in any event he had a most glorious opportunity, even though it was compulsory.
Many of the Lord’s dear people, reading the account, have wished that they could have had a share in the carrying of that cross. Where were Peter, James and John and the others? Alas, they allowed fear to hinder them, to deprive them of a most glorious service. While thinking of this it is well to remember that our Lord has graciously provided that all of his followers may share in the carrying of his cross. The offense of the cross, the weight of the cross, has not ceased; the cross of Christ is still in the world; the privilege is still with us to bear it with him, following after him. Although the apostles lost the privilege of bearing the literal cross for Jesus, they gloriously recovered from their fear, and we have the record of their noble service, bearing the cross of Christ for all the years of their lives afterwards.
Let us love much, and let us show our love by our zeal in cross-bearing; and if at any time that zeal grows cold, let us remember the axiom, “No cross, no crown;” let us remember the Apostle’s words, “If we suffer with him we shall also reign with him; if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him.” Yet neither the fear of death nor the appreciation of the crown must be the controlling motive. The mainspring of our devotion to the Lord must be an appreciation of what he has done for us, our love to him, and our desire to do what would please him, and thus show a responsive love. Let us remember that while the Lord Jesus, the Head of the Church, was glorified long ago, there are still about us in the world those whom he recognizes as his brethren, as “members of his body,” and that whatsoever we do to one of the least of these, whatever assistance we render to these in the bearing of their crosses, is so much that he will appreciate as manifesting our love for him, as so much that is done unto him.
“HE WAS NUMBERED WITH THE TRANSGRESSORS”
Our Lord’s crucifixion between two thieves may be viewed from various standpoints. To himself it would mean the depths of humiliation. Every noble and pure man or woman prizing purity in his own heart
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would find it specially detestable to be so misunderstood as to be numbered with transgressors, murderers, thieves—accounted one of them. And if this is true with us in our imperfect condition of mind and heart, and our imperfect appreciation of justice and of sin, how much more intense must this feeling have been in the perfect one, our Lord. How he must have loathed sin, how utterly opposed to it in every sense of the word he must have been, and how much more shame he must have felt than we could possibly have felt in his position. From the heavenly Father’s standpoint this permission that his Son be numbered with the transgressors was evidently to be a demonstration to angels and to men of the Son’s loyalty of heart to the utmost extreme, as we read, “He humbled himself unto death, even the death of the cross.”
Thus the Lord demonstrated, not only by his willingness to die, but his willingness to die in the most despicable manner, his full self-renunciation, the complete deadness of his own will and the thorough aliveness of his own heart and mind to the Father’s will. In all this he became an illustration to his followers, as the Apostle suggests, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God [no matter how deep the humiliation which obedience to God may bring] that he may exalt you in due time.” From the standpoint of the priests and Pharisees the Lord’s crucifixion with the two thieves was specially desirable; it would help to keep the people from thinking of him as a martyr, it would demean and
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degrade him before the people, and make any ashamed to acknowledge themselves the followers of a religious teacher who was publicly executed as a malefactor, as an enemy of God and man. How could it be expected that any could ever glory in the cross of Christ? But how wonderfully God’s plans overrule all human arrangements, and make even the wrath and envy and villainy of the human heart work out to his praise and in accord with his plan?
KILLING THE PRINCE OF LIFE
The distance from Pilate’s palace to the Place of the Skull is not great, though the latter is outside the city wall. The spot was soon reached, the crosses were laid upon the ground, and the soldiers quickly stripped the prisoners and nailed them, probably with wooden spikes, to the crosses which they then lifted and dropped into the holes previously prepared for them, the feet of the crucified coming within about two feet of the ground. The agony incident to such a proceeding can be better imagined than described, especially at the moment when the cross dropped into the socket, and when the weight of the body together with the swinging and surging and jolting of the cross would make the pain terrible in the extreme, more to one of refined temperament and nervous system than to the coarser and more brutal—severer, therefore, to our Lord than to his two companions. Well may the devoted disciples of Jesus say to themselves, “My Lord bore this for me,” and we may ask ourselves in turn what have we borne for him of shame or ignominy or pain? The very thought of this should make us ashamed to mention boastfully any trials we may have endured, and also make us more courageous to be patient and to endure all things which divine providence may permit to come to our cup because of our discipleship.
THE KING OF THE JEWS
It was Pilate’s turn to get even with the envious and malicious Jewish rulers who had forced him, contrary to his will as well as contrary to justice, to crucify Jesus. It was customary to publish the crime for which the execution took place by a printed notice over the head of the victim. In Jesus’ case he wrote, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews,” Mark gives the inscription, “The King of the Jews,” and Luke, “This is the King of the Jews.” All three may be correct, for the notice was written in three languages, Hebrew, Greek and Latin.
In his trial before the High Priest he was sentenced to death as a blasphemer in calling himself the Son of God; but, as we have seen, this charge would not stand before Pilate, since the Roman government cared nothing whether a man blasphemed one god or another. To secure his execution by the Romans he was charged with rebellion against Rome, claiming that he was the King of the Jews. Pilate’s decision not to alter the writing was correct, and ultimately all the blind eyes of the world shall be opened to this great fact that Jesus was indeed divinely anointed to be the King of earth. But as he said, “My Kingdom is not from hence”—not yet. As he represents elsewhere, the time is coming when “he shall take unto himself his great power and reign.” Those who acknowledge him as King now are a very small and very insignificant people in the world—”not many great, not many wise, not many learned”—”chiefly the poor of this world, rich in faith.”
To some it seems to be a pleasing fiction to say that Jesus is now the King of the world and is reigning, that Christendom is his Kingdom, and that the 400,000,000 of nominal professors are his loyal subjects. Those who thus conclude are nearly as blind and prejudiced as were the doctors of divinity who secured our Lord’s death. It would be as truthful to call black white as to call “Christendom” the empire of Christ and its people the servants of Christ. “His servants ye are to whom ye render service,” was our Lord’s standpoint, and accordingly the Lord has few real servants in the world to-day—the great majority are serving sin in some of its numerous forms of selfishness, and are glad to think that the day of Christ, the day of the Anointed, when he shall take to himself his great power and reign under the whole heaven, is far distant.
Those who “love his appearing,” whose souls long for the presence of the King and the inauguration of his
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reign of righteousness in the earth are a woefully small number. But all who are of the “little flock,” soldiers of the cross, should specially appreciate one another’s fellowship and should be ready, as the Scriptures exhort, to “lay down their lives for the brethren.” And he who would lay down his life for a brother will surely be careful in all his dealings to do nothing against the Truth but for the Truth, nothing to stumble any, but everything possible to assist the members of the body of Christ, “The feet of Him.”
“SITTING DOWN THEY WATCHED HIM THERE”
The Roman soldiers, ignorant of God and the principles of righteousness—their highest conception of responsibility being to obey orders—seemed to have no heart whatever; the quivering flesh of their victims seemed to have touched no tender spot. They sat down and looked at him, and straightway began to divide his garments amongst them. “The usual dress of a Jew consisted of five parts: the head dress, the shoes, the outer garment or toga, the girdle (one part for each of the soldiers) and the chiton”—the tunic, in our text called a coat—a kind of shirt fitting somewhat closely and reaching from the neck to the ankles, for which they cast lots.
As those soldiers coldly looked at the Lamb of God, who was suffering the Just for the unjust as their redemption price, and as they were dividing his raiment as their perquisites, they resembled to a considerable degree the whole of “Christendom” from that time to the present. Millions in all parts of the civilized world have heard of Jesus and his love and his sacrifice and that it was on our behalf, and are still totally unmoved, unconcerned, without thankfulness or appreciation. They are willing, indeed, to receive and divide amongst themselves day by day the various blessings and advantages which have come to them through his death, yet even these are received without appreciation or thankfulness or gratitude. The most kindly view of such an attitude of heart is that which the Apostle has expressed, saying, “The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the glorious light of God’s goodness shining in the face of Jesus Christ should shine into their hearts.”
WITH HIM IN HIS DYING HOUR
With the Lord in his dying hour were four of his very special friends: his mother, her cousin the wife of Cleopas, Mary Magdalene and John. We are not to think too severely of the apparent lack of courage on the part of the others of Jesus’ friends. The popular bitterness which had led to the crucifixion of Jesus had extended in considerable measure to his followers. It was natural that they should be afraid; it had even been hinted that Lazarus would be put to death also. The three women with him might reasonably feel themselves free from danger of molestation notwithstanding their manifestation of interest in the suffering one; and as for John, we remember that he had a friend in the High Priest’s household, who permitted him to be present when Jesus was first brought before the High Priest and when Peter was afraid to be known even in the outer apartments. Quite probably the High Priest’s servant was present at the time of the crucifixion to give a report of the whole proceedings. John’s courage to be present may have been influenced by these circumstances. It was at this time that Jesus, although in great pain, commended his mother to his disciple’s care—”Woman, behold thy Son;” and to the disciple, “Behold thy mother.” We cannot show our sympathy at Jesus’ cross, but we can lend our presence and aid to dear “members of his body” in their dark hours; and he will count it as done to himself.
Another Scripture remained to be fulfilled. The prophet had declared of him, “They gave me gall and vinegar to drink.” This would be another mark or identification of him, and is given as the reason why Jesus mentioned this thirst. Doubtless, with a fever raging such as would be induced by the crucifixion, he had been thirsting for quite a while, but now the time was come to express the matter, to give occasion for the fulfilment of the Scripture respecting him. Gall and vinegar was given him, not as an injury but as a kindness. It was supposed that the mixture would assuage thirst to some degree.
Having thus fulfilled the various Scriptures relating to his career, our Lord realized that the end of his course had come. It was probably at this juncture that the Father’s fellowship was withdrawn from him for a moment; that for a little space at least he should experience all that the sinner could ever experience of the withdrawal of divine favor; for he was being treated as the sinner for us that we on his account might be treated of God as righteous. Of all our Lord’s experiences we believe that this moment, in which the Father completely hid his face from him, was the most trying moment, the severest ordeal, and the one apparently which our Lord had not foreseen. Bereft of every earthly comfort and favor, privilege and blessing, up to this moment he possessed a realization of fellowship and communion with the Father; but now for that to be taken away, that upon which his whole life had depended, that was the severest trial.
In agony he cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me! What have I done to cause a cloud
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to come between thee and me? Have I not been faithful even unto death?” He probably soon realized the meaning of this experience, that it was necessary for him thus to fill up the cup of suffering and to demonstrate to the very limit his loyalty and obedience and to thus fully and completely meet the penalty against our race. Probably still under this cloud but with this realization he cried, “It is finished!” and died. We often speak of people dying of broken hearts, and use the term figuratively, but so far as can be known our Lord experienced this very matter actually. Apparently he died by the actual bursting of his heart. It is the tendency of deep grief to interfere with the circulation of the blood and to cause a pressure upon the heart. We have all felt this at times—a weight and heaviness of heart under certain peculiar nervous strains. This in our Lord’s case seems to have been so intense that the heart was literally ruptured. He died of a broken heart.
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A LITTLE TALK WITH JESUS
A little talk with Jesus
At the closing of the day,—
How it quiets every anxious fear,
And drives our doubts away.
A little talk with Jesus,—
How it soothes the aching brain,
How it rests the weary, fainting heart,
And makes us strong again.
A little talk with Jesus,—
How it lights the darkest hour,
How it keeps us “watching unto prayer,”
And foils the Tempter’s power.
A little talk with Jesus,—
There can nothing take its place,—
How we long to reach our heavenly home,
And see him face to face!
—G. W. Seibert
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“I AM ALIVE FOREVERMORE”
—JOHN 20:11-23.—JUNE 4.—
Golden Text:—”But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept.”—1 Cor. 15:20.
WHILE the death of Christ was the greatest event in history, his resurrection from death readily holds second place. The death of Christ without his resurrection would have left our race just as helpless and hopeless as before. The word death signifies the absence of life just as truly when applied to our Redeemer as when applied to others. The Scriptural statement that “The dead know not anything” applied to him while dead as truly as to others, as also the declaration, “There is neither wisdom nor knowledge nor device in the grave”—sheol, hades. No religion in the world other than that taught in the Bible teaches the resurrection of the dead. Heathen philosophies assume, contrary to the Scriptures, contrary to reason, contrary to facts, contrary to all the evidences of the senses, that the dead are not dead, but, on the contrary, more alive than ever before.
It is because so many Christian people have imbibed much of heathen philosophy on this subject of death that to many of them the resurrection of the dead is a superfluous matter, to say the least. Indeed they reason soundly when they say that if Abraham lived 175 years in this world and at death passed into the spirit world more alive than ever, where he has been enjoying himself in spirit surroundings for the past 3,800 years, they can see no reason why he might not continue to enjoy himself just as well for all eternity in that condition. Indeed they argue forcefully, logically, that if, according to their expectations, his resurrection by and by will mean a return to earthly conditions after so long an experience in spirit conditions, he doubtless would, if given his choice, prefer that there should be no resurrection.
THE INSPIRED RECORD REASONABLE
The difficulty is that the Scriptural teachings on the subject are wholly overlooked in such reasoning. According to the Scriptures Abraham has known nothing since he died, and the moment of his resurrection will mean the revival of all his previous experiences and hopes at a time and under conditions which will permit of the fulfilment to him of all of God’s gracious promises. Without resurrection he would be, as the infidel claims, “dead as a door nail.” From this Scriptural point of view it will be readily seen that the resurrection of the dead is all important, that on it depends all hopes of eternal life. That this is the Scriptural teaching we shall see.
The Golden Text of our Lesson is from the chapter which explains the subject of resurrection more particularly than does any other chapter in the Bible. It assures us that Christ was dead and that he is arisen from the dead. In this it agrees with our Lord’s own words (Rev. 1:18), “I am he that liveth and was dead; and behold, I am alive forevermore.” How plain, how forceful are these words when given their proper weight, their true signification! Life and death are here referred to as opposites—he is not dead now, but is alive; when he was dead he was not alive. It seems strange that it should be necessary to examine so simple a statement. It surely would not be necessary to discuss the matter at all with thinking people were it not that the error of thinking of the dead as alive is so prevalent, so deeply entrenched in all our minds, in all our thoughts.
Further, our Golden Text declares that our Lord in his resurrection became the “first-fruits of them that slept.” What does this mean? It means what the Apostle states in other language, saying that he “should be the first that should rise from the dead;” and again, he was the “first-born from the dead.” (Acts 26:23; Col. 1:18.) None before him was ever resurrected, though a few were temporarily awakened, as, for instance, Lazarus, the daughter of Jairus, and the widow of Nain’s son. Jesus was the first to be raised completely out of death’s power—to perfection of life, of being, on any plane of existence. And the word “first-fruits” carries with it the thought that there are to be others who similarly will pass completely out of death conditions into perfect life conditions.
“IF THERE BE NO RESURRECTION”
In the context (1 Cor. 15:12-18) the Apostle seeks to impress upon his hearers the importance of the doctrine of the resurrection as connected with the Christian religion. He wrote at a time when the Greek philosophies were invading all parts of the then civilized world, and when many, imbued with the Platonic theory that the dead are alive, had become interested in Christ and were more or less associating the Platonic view that there is no death with the Christian view that death is the penalty for sin, but that Christ paid that penalty, and that as a result the resurrection from the dead is made possible for every member of Adam’s race. Because of the prevalence of the error the Apostle was constrained to state the truth in the most positive form. He says:
“If Christ hath been preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, neither hath Christ been raised: and if Christ hath not been raised, then is our preaching vain, and
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your faith is also vain. Yea, we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not then is not Christ raised; and if Christ be not raised your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.”
There is no reasonable ground for misunderstanding these plain statements. Only deep-seated errors have hindered us from attaching to these inspired words their true meaning. They mean what they say: that if Jesus remained dead, if he was not raised up from death to life, he did not complete the work he undertook, he did not become the Savior, the Deliverer. True, indeed, his death was necessary as the redemption price, but it was also a part of the divine plan that if he accomplished the sacrifice in a manner satisfactory to the Father, he would be raised from death to a higher plane of existence, to a higher than human nature, to the divine nature, and that thus raised he should have the opportunity of presenting the merit of his sacrifice on behalf of the Church first and subsequently for the sins of the whole world.
If he remained in death, was not resurrected, it would be a proof that he had failed to come up to the divine requirements. If he remained in death, was not resurrected, then he could never present his sacrifice on our behalf, could never appear as our advocate and mediator, could never secure our release from the sentence of death, and could never be our helper to bring us back into accord with the Father. Hence, as the Apostle says, “If Christ be not risen the teachings of the apostles are all false,” for they are all built upon this central fact that “Jesus rose on the third day.” Hence again, as he states it, if Christ be not risen it proves that our hope of forgiveness of sins through the merit of his sacrifice is a vain one—then he did not appear on our behalf, he did not offer the merit of his sacrifice in mediation of our sins, we are not reconciled to the Father, we are yet in our sins, yet under condemnation, without hope.
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“MANY INFALLIBLE PROOFS”
Then comes in our Golden Text, in which the Apostle reassures us that it is no fable, that Christ arose from the dead, that it was not only necessary to our salvation, but that it is a fact well attested. He proceeds in his argument to show that thus by the resurrection of Christ is ultimately to come the resurrection of the Church to full harmony with God, ultimately to be completely delivered from the power of sin and death—”As all in Adam die, so all in Christ shall be made alive”—a full release from death, which is the great enemy. He proceeds to say that ultimately, at his second advent, “Christ must reign until he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”
With this view of the importance of the resurrection of Jesus, we cannot wonder that the Scriptures lay great stress upon that fact, and deduce various proofs and demonstrations intended to establish our faith in it. All four of the evangelists give the details respecting our Lord’s resurrection and manifestation to his apostles with great particularity. In the book of the Acts (1:3), the writer begins with this assurance, that Jesus “showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of his disciples [occasionally] during the space of forty days, speaking of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”
When the Apostle would outline the great plan of God he shows the importance of the resurrection, not only for Jesus but also for all who ever shall be blessed through him as the Savior. He begins his dissertation on the subject by saying, “I delivered to you first of all that which I also received [first of all]: how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures: and that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve, and after that he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain until now, but some are fallen asleep. After that he was seen of James, then of all the apostles, and last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.”
A VERY PREVALENT ERROR
Those who think of the dead as being alive and who still desire to apply in some manner the Scriptural teaching respecting the resurrection, have forced themselves to the thought that it is a resurrection of the body that is promised, which is a mistake. It is the being or soul that has the promise of a resurrection, and some beings or souls are to be resurrected to one plane of existence and others to another plane. For instance, the promise to the Church of Christ is a resurrection in a spirit body. The Apostle describes “the” resurrection of “the” dead as the resurrection of the Church, born again to a new nature, a spiritual, a heavenly nature. He says of the being or soul of such, “It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown an animal body it is raised a spiritual body.”
Although not discussing particularly the resurrection for the remainder of the world, the Apostle intimates that not all will be raised celestial bodies, heavenly bodies, and he explains that there is a glory for the celestial and a glory also for the terrestrial. He proceeds to contrast the first Adam, of the earth earthy, with the second Adam, the heavenly Lord, saying, “The first was made a living soul [an animal being], the last was made a life-giving spirit.” But it was not until our Lord’s resurrection that he became a life-giving spirit, for as the Apostle Peter declares elsewhere, “He was put to death in the flesh, but quickened in the spirit.” These two Adams are samples or patterns of what mankind may attain to in the resurrection: the Church is to attain to the likeness of the second Adam, the world the likeness of the first Adam—”as is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.”
Only the Church of this Gospel age has been granted the opportunity of becoming spiritual children of God, joint-heirs with Christ their Lord. Theirs is the great blessing, the privilege of the first resurrection, concerning which the Scriptures declare, “Blessed and holy are they who have part in the first resurrection; on such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” It is this wonderful hope that God has set before us in the Gospel, the hope of participation with our Redeemer in the sufferings of this present time and also in the glories that shall follow, and our hope is attainable
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in and through and by the first resurrection, of which the Lord was the first fruits.
Subsequently will come the world’s opportunity for a resurrection. This is elsewhere described as restitution, a return to all that was lost in Adam—a return to the likeness of God in the flesh which Adam had before he transgressed, and which all of his children are yet to attain to if they will—through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus and during the period of his Millennial Kingdom. The world’s hope in Christ is a resurrection hope and a glorious one, but the hope of the Church excels in glory, honor and immortality.
MARY THE FIRST WITNESS
The honor of being the first witness to whom our Lord manifested himself after his resurrection came to Mary Magdalene, who at one time was possessed by evil spirits, but who, being freed from their domination became a faithful and loyal follower of Jesus. This was not the Mary, sister of Lazarus and Martha, neither was it Mary the “sinner,” who washed our Lord’s feet with her tears in the Pharisee’s house. She is called Mary Magdalene, probably because her home town was Magdala.
Early on the next morning after the Sabbath—corresponding to our Sunday, the first day of the week—Mary had an appointment with others of the Lord’s friends to go to the tomb with spices, etc., to embalm his body, a proceeding which had been impossible because of the lateness of the hour of his crucifixion, and because on the Sabbath intervening no such work was permissible under the Law. Their thought was to take advantage of the very earliest opportunity for the embalming before decomposition could set in. Arising earlier than her companions Mary went alone to the sepulcher, and, looking in, saw that the body of Jesus was gone. She wondered why he had been removed and where, and wept; then stooping down again, because the door of the sepulcher was low, she beheld two persons in white raiment, whom she recognized as angels, sitting at the head and foot of the place where Jesus’ body had lain, as though they were keeping guard. They asked why she wept; she answered because they had taken away her Lord and she knew not where they had laid him.
Turning, Mary saw a man near her, whom she took to be the caretaker of the garden in which was Joseph’s tomb. He also asked why she wept, and she appealed to him that if he had removed the body, being dissatisfied that it should remain in that tomb, if he would give it to her care she would take charge of it. Nothing about this person indicated who he was. He looked like a gardener, probably had on gardener’s clothing—(his own clothing we know had been appropriated by the soldiers who crucified him, and the linen clothes were still lying in the tomb). It was not until Jesus called her by name, probably in the old familiar voice, that she recognized that the one before her was her Lord—in a different body, in another form, but still he.
Falling at his feet and clasping them she simply uttered the word, “Rabboni!” Master; but Jesus did not encourage her to thus continue, but intimated rather that, having knowledge of his resurrection, she should become the newsbearer or gospeller to the disciples, informing them that he was risen and that by and by he would ascend, “To your Father and to my Father, to your God and to my God.”
ART THOU A STRANGER?
Our risen Lord evidently revealed himself to Mary only by his voice. The clothing was not such as he had previously worn nor was the appearance the same; she knew him not until he spoke. Later in the day two of his disciples were going to Emmaus and the Lord overtook them and saluted them kindly, inquiring why they were of such sad countenances and evidently in deep sorrow. They knew him not, they saw not the print of the nails in his hands nor in his feet, they saw not the features they had long known nor the clothing. They said to him, “Art thou a stranger in these parts and hast not heard about Jesus?” etc. He took occasion to open unto them the Scriptures, to point out to them from the prophecies how it was necessary that Messiah should thus suffer in order to enter into his glory, in order that his Kingdom might come, in order that mankind might be blessed, in order that an elect Church might be gathered to be associated with him in the blessing of the world.
Finally, after being with them probably for several hours, and doubtless being esteemed a very wonderful man indeed, who could thus open up the Scriptures so as to cause their hearts to burn within them with love and devotion and with faith, he revealed himself to them in the breaking of bread and immediately vanished. Something about his words or about his manner of giving thanks told them at once that this was their Lord, and accounted for all the peculiar phenomena they had noted.
The same evening he met with his assembled disciples, who, in fear of the Jews, behind fast-closed doors, were discussing their own safety and also the reports
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of Mary and the other women at the sepulcher when Jesus appeared suddenly in their midst. They were astounded and fearful. How could any being get into their midst while the doors were fast? Surely the being before them must be a spirit. They were in fear and trepidation, but the Master’s words, “Peace,” stilled their fears. He showed them his hands and his side, and he ate before them and said, “Handle me and see that it is I: a spirit [pneuma] hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.” Then were they glad as they realized the truth, and so are all glad who realize this great fact of our Lord’s resurrection from the dead and who have any conception whatever of its weighty importance as connected with the divine plan for our salvation.
WHY THE DIFFERENT FORMS?
We may be sure that there was some good and wise purpose served by the Lord’s course—by his appearing in various forms and later on vanishing from sight. Nothing, we may be sure, was done in vain; everything had a purpose, especially at such a time. It is for us to reverently examine the matter and note the purpose, the object, of such manifestations. We accept them as follows: (1) Our Lord would convince them that he was not any longer the fleshly Jesus whom they had known for several years; he would convince them that although put to death in the flesh he was quickened in the spirit, that henceforth he was a spirit being. They knew about angels—Mary herself
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had seen two in the sepulcher; they knew that angels could appear and disappear; they knew that angels could assume human form and flesh; they knew from the record that angels had appeared to Abraham and had eaten dinner with him, and that Abraham knew not that they were angels until subsequently.
Our Lord would show his disciples that not only was he not dead, but that now he could go and come like the angels, he could appear and disappear, he could manifest himself in the flesh or be present without flesh, he could create clothing as easily as the flesh for these appearances and did so, yet none of the clothing and none of the flesh were the same that they had previously been in contact with. The clothing was with the soldiers still—the flesh, we know not where it is; we simply know that Jesus was not raised in the flesh, and we know also that the elements of the fleshly body are not at all necessary to God for the creation of a spirit body.
Our Lord illustrated in his own person the very lesson he had given them on the occasion of the visit of Nicodemus. He then said that those born of the spirit could go and come like the wind, and that none would know whence they came nor whither they went. How appropriate that he should illustrate this and thus give them their first lessons in spiritual things, which, however, they would not be fully able to appreciate until after Pentecost, when the holy Spirit would be poured out.
“A SPIRIT HATH NOT FLESH”
But some, perhaps, may say, Did not Jesus contradict the thought that he was a spirit when he used the words, A spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have? The two thoughts are quite in harmony: they were not seeing the spirit Jesus, they were merely seeing the flesh and bones which the spirit Jesus assumed for the purpose of conversing with them, just as the angels assumed flesh-and-bone bodies when they made certain communications as recorded in the Old Testament Scriptures. He did not say, “A spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see I am,” but “as ye see me have.”
The spirit Jesus manifested himself through the flesh and bones and clothing. He saw that, if they could but realize that they were looking at flesh and bones their fear would depart, and as they would be thus calmed, Jesus would be the better able to explain to them the fact of his resurrection and to give them the initiatory lessons connected with their future work as his representatives in the world when he should be gone. This was the object of his various manifestations during those forty days, about eleven in all, and very brief in every case. The appearing in the flesh would remove their fear and enable them to hear the better what he had to say to them. Their seeing him on two occasions in a body of flesh resembling the one he had been crucified in, and perhaps in clothing resembling that the soldiers had divided among themselves, assisted them also to grasp the thought of the resurrection, that he was no longer dead; and his appearing in different forms proved to them conclusively that none of these forms was his own proper one, but that they were merely so many appearances through which he communicated with them.
Doubtless it was for this same reason that he remained forty days, manifesting himself occasionally, yet invisible to them all the remainder of that period. He would have them learn gradually not to expect him again in the flesh, but to realize, nevertheless, his presence with them and care over them, so that they might the better understand, when he should leave them, how he could still maintain his presence with them and his guardianship of all their interests. He was sending them forth as his special representatives in the world as his words indicated, “Peace be unto you. As the Father hath sent me even so send I you.” Jesus Christ was the Father’s representative; we are the special representatives of our Lord and Head, though of course through him and in him representatives also of the Father.
“RECEIVE YE THE HOLY SPIRIT”
The disciples had not yet received the holy Spirit. Only Jesus had ever received it in the sense of a begetting, although the prophets had received it in a mechanical sense to work in them and through them. This is in harmony with the statement elsewhere made, that “the holy Spirit was not yet given because Jesus was not yet glorified.” In other words, God could not communicate his spirit to any until after the merit of Christ’s sacrifice had been appropriated to them. This was done after the Lord had ascended up on high, there to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Forthwith the holy Spirit, in Pentecostal power and blessing, was shed forth.
The Lord would have the disciples anticipate the blessing that was to come to them; he would have them understand that the holy Spirit he would send would not be a person, but the Father’s spirit and his own spirit—the breath or spirit of God, the breath or spirit of Jesus, the spirit of truth, the spirit of holiness, the spirit of a sound mind.
“WHOSESOEVER SINS YE REMIT”
Our Lord’s declaration that his disciples might or might not remit sins is not to be understood after the manner in vogue amongst Roman Catholics, Greek Catholics, etc.—that a priest, by virtue of the sacrifice of the mass or otherwise, is able to remit sins. The thought rather is that these twelve apostles in particular, and less particularly all the Lord’s true members while in the world, would be under the influence and guidance and instruction of his holy Spirit to such an extent that they would know the terms and conditions on which it would be possible to forgive sins, and that they might thus know so certainly as to be able to tell their hearers whether or not their sins were forgiven by the Lord.
We have this privilege still, and every true child of God should know how to exercise it, so that if brought into contact with penitent sinners he could render them the necessary assistance and indicate to them upon what particular terms they might know that their sins were forgiven of the Lord. For instance, we may assure any one who gives evidence of contrition, of heart repentance, restitution to the extent of ability, faith in Christ and obedient desire to walk according to his ways—we may assure any such person that his sins are forgiven; not that we have the power to forgive them, but we, being intimate with the Master and knowing his mind on the subject, can speak for him as his mouthpiece, to declare the terms of reconciliation. Whoever can know about his own sins, should know also how to direct and assist others in knowing of the cancelation of their sins.