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VOL. XXVII. MARCH 15. 1906. No. 6
Views from the Watch Tower…………………… 83
Is the Moral Supremacy of Christendom in Danger?… 83
Communism and the Bible………………….. 84
Palestine Opened to Jews…………………. 84
Signs of Depravity in Coming Generation……. 85
Rifle Range Under a Church……………….. 85
Spiritism is Aggressive……………………… 85
One-Day Convention Reports…………………… 89
The Chestnut Burr (Poem)…………………….. 89
Punishing Fellow-Members…………………….. 89
Infallibility and Church Eldership……………. 90
A Lesson on Temperance………………………. 92
“Take Heed How Ye Hear”……………………… 92
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A PLEASING CORRECTION
In our issue of Feb. 15th, page 52, notice an article headed “VERY SAD IF TRUE,” relating to President Faunce of Brown University. One of the brethren acquainted with the gentleman called his attention to it, and reports to us that the truth of the report is emphatically denied. We are glad of this, and will be very pleased if the brother will obtain from President Faunce a brief statement of his views of the Atonement over his own signature; we will be pleased to give it publicity in these columns. Our report, it will be noticed, was taken from the columns of “Watchword and Truth,” a Baptist journal of good reputation, and seemingly in close touch with Dr. Faunce’s opinions.
COLPORTEUR WORK IS GREAT
Evidently now is the special time for the promulgation of the Good Tidings of the Kingdom. Every avenue seems to be opening wider than ever before. The Colporteur work is showing remarkably: Much of this is due to some new methods very recently adopted. Now every laborer of zealous heart is being prospered. Still there is room! If you are free of earthly encumbrances or nearly so, and long for this service, write to us at once for our “Special Instructions.” If you at one time tried the work and failed of success, put yourself under our present instructions and you will surely succeed. If possible send us your photograph: indeed, we now have a large photograph cabinet at the Bible House, and will be glad to have photos of all WATCH TOWER readers willing to send them. Write your name on back of photo.
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VIEWS FROM THE WATCH TOWER
IS THE MORAL SUPREMACY OF CHRISTENDOM IN DANGER?
FROM THE “HIBBERT JOURNAL”
IT has become the plain duty of Christendom to realize that her hold on the moral supremacy of the world is not so secure as many of us imagine. There is room, nay, opportunity, for a rival candidate. That the Christian ideal of moral excellence is splendid, even unsurpassed, no one doubts. But no less certain, no less striking, is the failure of the West to justify that ideal, both in national and private life. The sense of dissatisfaction which this failure has produced has entered deep into the moral consciousness of Christians all the world over; and if the impression has been deep in the case of those who profess and call themselves Christians, it has been yet deeper with the multitudes who have turned their backs on the Church. I rate this feeling among the greatest of the forces now moving the minds of men. Other things may create a louder noise, but this works revolutions. The question of theological standards is being merged into that of the moral, and we are being summoned, as never before, to find the correspondence between our professions and our lives. Such a state of things exposes Christendom to a rival challenge, and marks the fitting moment for another claimant to appear on the scene. If outside the pale of Christendom there should arise the example of a saner, nobler, more rational, more joyous, more humane, more self-controlled way of life than the West has so far achieved, the minds of men are prepared to greet its appearance as no act of
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presumption, but as a divine fulfilment of the urgent needs of mankind.
* * *
If any reader of this paper should conclude from what has been said that I regard the rise of Japan as the most important event in religious history since the call of the Gentiles, he will so far correctly understand my drift.
* * *
The contention is that a serious challenge to the moral hegemony of Christendom is not, a priori, impossible; that such a challenge has actually been offered; that Buddhism, represented for the moment by Japan, is even now in the field as a claimant for that position which the vast majority of Christians regard as the indisputable birthright of their own religion. What verdict history will finally pass upon this claim no one can tell, no one should try to tell. Enough for the present that the claim has arisen; that it lacks no element of seriousness; that it has been forced on the attention of the world in a fact-language which admits of no mistake.
The potentates of Europe will hereafter have reason to think twice before shaking their mailed fists in the face of the Far East. But not for her guns alone, nor the way she handles them, is Japan to be feared. The “Yellow Peril” is an ethical phenomenon. Far more significant than the efficiency of Japan in arms is the advent into the world’s history of a people possessed of a disciplined will in combination with the highest order of intelligence. An observer has declared that the greatest brains in all the world are to be found at this moment in Japan. But a great brain is no guaranty of efficiency; isolated from other gifts, it may even become the ruin of its possessor. This, however, is not the case with Japan; her purpose and her intelligence are one. She has shown herself great not only in conceiving her end but in pursuing it. She has poured her energies into her ideals. Thus she rises up in possession of all that we mean by character; and it is in the strength of character rather than in the strength of arms that she now challenges the world.
Praise of Japanese virtue is at this late hour admittedly superfluous. But none the less a prudent man will not cease to observe the facts, nor grow weary in his study of their meaning. He will be quick to notice that Japan has impressed Europe by qualities higher than those which pertain to martial valor. To very many persons—I think to the masses of the people—it appears that Japan in her hour of trial has shown a degree of calmness, moderation, self-restraint, and dignity which are strange to the working moral standards of Europe, and beyond what we have been accustomed to expect. Her armies and navies have taught the world many lessons in the making of war, and she has won an equal glory by showing how the people who
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stay at home should behave themselves while the war is being made. By what she has refrained from doing, no less than by what she has done, she deserves our respect. In no act of that appalling drama has she allowed herself to play to the gallery. She has not made a spectacle of her fight-for-life; she has encouraged no reporters to witness the shedding of heroic blood; but as though some terrible operation of surgery were in progress, she has repulsed the sightseer and locked the door. In all these respects she has not copied an example previously given, but set a new one to the civilized world.
* * *
It will scarcely be doubted that the impression has gone very deep, and that great changes are bound to follow in many of our accepted ways of thought. The working classes of our own country in particular, never prone to rate too highly either the bona-fides of their religious instructors or the practical value of the instruction given, have undoubtedly found here a new reason for distrusting the moral efficacy of the Christian religion. And not among the working classes only, but everywhere one may observe a growing readiness to compare the respective moral harvests of the East and the West, with the result that Western society sees with cleared vision the scantiness of the domestic crop and the general nakedness of the land. A new point has been given to the arrows of the sceptic: has he not indeed been provided with a new poison for his barbs? The astounding divorce between the ethical ideals of Christendom and its normal practice, the liberty of interpretation with which the first principles of Christian morality are misapplied to our social life; the freedom, amounting to effrontery, with which one thing is professed and the opposite practised; the disgraceful sophisms by which the Christian conscience is taught to be blind to its own faithlessness—these and many other truths of a like nature, once apprehended only by a small and neglected company, have during the last three years been revealed in their true colors to tens of thousands of persons who never thought of them before. Who can doubt that the crisis which has so long been in preparation for Christianity has been brought appreciably nearer by these things—so near, perhaps, as to be even now at the doors?
COMMUNISM AND THE BIBLE
“The relation of Christianity to Communism has become a question for thoughtful people to consider seriously, if they wish to preserve their intellectual candor and self-respect in adhering to the religion of Jesus.” This statement is made by Prof. Henry Van Dyke in his new volume of “Essays in Application.” The new type of communist, he says, is more insidious than the old, because, having “laid aside the red cap and put on the white cravat,” he “discusses the problem of organization of society on ethical and religious grounds.” The law of private ownership the communist denounces as “essentially immoral and irreligious, because it protects and rewards a form of selfishness.” He further claims that the “teachings of the Bible are against it, and that the Spirit of Jesus, who was really a great Socialist, is altogether in favor of common ownership.” Entertaining the contention for the sake of its implied conclusion the writer states that:
“If property is theft, according to the teachings of Jesus, then the Church itself, like the Temple of old, has become a den of thieves. If the animus of the New Testament is distinctly communistic, then every honest Christian is bound either to give up his faith in the holy Scripture or to obey its doctrine, not only to the letter, but in the spirit, and to work with those who are seeking to establish a new order of society in which private possessions shall be unknown.”
The writer admits two cases possible of citation to prove that the Bible has at least a partial leaning toward the communistic theory. They are the Hebrew Year of Jubilee, “which is used as an argument for the nationalization of the land;” and the example of the members of the early Church at Jerusalem who “were together and had all things in common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them all, as every man had need.” Considering these two cases, however, Dr. Van Dyke asserts of the first that, “looking at the Year of Jubilee as a possible model for legislation in our times, we see that it was simply an iron-clad law of entail, more rigid than England has ever known;” and the early Church “was a fraternal stock company for mutual aid and protection.” The Old Testament, he declares, holds out scanty encouragement to the advocates of Communism. The Gospels seem to contain even less. He writes:
“There was a man in Bethany named Lazarus, who had a house in which he sheltered the Christ whom the community had rejected. There was a man named Zaccheus, who was rich and who entertained Jesus at his own house. Is there any suggestion that the Master disapproved of these property owners? There was a man named Joseph of Arimathea, who had a garden and a new sepulcher in which he made a quiet resting-place for the body of him whom the people had despised and crucified. Was he a selfish robber?
“Christianity never would have found a foothold in the world, never would have survived the storms of early persecution, had it not been sheltered in its infancy by the rights of private property, which are founded in justice, and therefore are respected by all lovers of righteousness, Christian or heathen. It is difficult to see how the religion of Jesus could have sanctioned these rights more emphatically than by using them for its own most holy purpose.”
More emphatically still the writer declares his belief in the antinomy that exists between the communistic creed and the doctrine of the Bible, and especially that assertion which declares that Christ was at heart a communist. He says:
“There is a fundamental and absolute difference between the doctrine of the Bible and the doctrine of Communism. The Bible tells me that I must deal my bread to the hungry; Communism tells the hungry that he may take it for himself. The Bible teaches that it is a sin to covet; Communism says that it is the new virtue which is to regenerate society.”—Literary Digest.
PALESTINE OPENED TO JEWS
Our readers are aware that for fourteen years the Sultan of Turkey has kept Palestine closed against the Jews. None of the Jewish race was allowed to become a resident: a limited number were granted visiting privileges of about 30 days and these were sometimes renewed, but no Jewish settlers were accepted. Now, according to the cablegram below from the public press, all this is changed and Jews may establish themselves in Palestine or elsewhere throughout the Sultan’s
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dominions. No doubt this will mean a great rush of Hebrews from Russian persecution to the Holy Land, and just at the opportune time—”in due time,” as our motto for this year has it. We quote the cablegram:—
SULTAN OPENS PALESTINE TO JEWISH COLONISTS
Constantinople, March 3.—The Sultan has opened the gates of Palestine to the wandering children of Israel, by signing an edict permitting them to establish themselves in any part of the Ottoman empire.
As a sign of protest against the cruel treatment of Russia toward the Jews, the Sultan ordered the officers at the different boundaries of the empire to allow the Jews entrance with or without passports.
The Russian Zionists sent a delegation to Turkey and Egypt to prepare everything for a systematic emigration from the Czar’s empire into the new land of promise.
SIGNS OF DEPRAVITY IN COMING GENERATION
“Paris, France.—Sociologists and criminologists are greatly worried at the many signs of depravity in the growing-up generation. Crimes among children are increasing at an alarming rate, and that not only among the children of the slums of the great cities, brought up among demoralizing surroundings, but even among the children of smaller towns and villages. Since January last 15 murders have been committed by children less than 16 years of age, one more shocking than the other.”
* * *
It would be as unfair to blame all the increased and increasing depravity of children upon the modern Sunday School, as to blame all the increase of crime and immorality amongst the young people of our day to the Epworth League, the Baptist Young People’s Union and the Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor.
ON WHAT, THEN, SHOULD WE LAY THE BLAME?
It would seem hard, too, to charge these things to the fact that our Methodist friends are boasting that they are building more than a Church every day. It would be equally unfair to charge the great increase of crime throughout Christendom to the efforts of any other denomination or to any people who outwardly teach and favor good morals.
Education surely opens the mind to greater opportunities for evil doing if the heart be unregenerate and wicked. But neither can we blame all on that which, rightly used, proves such a blessing to others.
If we should conclude that none of these influences should be faulted, we at least must agree that the dear people of God connected with all these who have hoped that they would prove world-converting agencies have every reason to feel disappointed and to look more closely to the Lord’s Word to see how he proposes to bring in the Millennium. When human hopes, ingenuity and efforts frustrated, defeated, result in chaos and anarchy, then man’s extremity is to be God’s opportunity, the Scriptures assure us. While therefore doing what we severally can to offset evil with good let us trust in the Lord and wait patiently for his time and way.
RIFLE RANGE UNDER A CHURCH
The Rifle Club gospel is not confined to the elementary school and to secular education. When speaking lately at the men’s meeting at Bloomsbury, Mr. Silas Hocking produced a photograph of a rifle range presented by the Mayor of Westminster, and arranged in the vaults under St. Martin’s Church. “We are getting on,” said Mr. Hocking. “We have the Gospel of Peace upstairs and the Gospel of War downstairs—the Crucifix in the chancel and the guns in the vaults below. The Church,” he continued, “had surrendered to the spirit of the world.” Christianity said: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” The modern spirit said: “Blessed are the warmakers, for they shall be called patriots and Big Englanders.” John Bright said force was no remedy, but pompous little people who posed as politicians to-day seemed to think it was the only remedy. Conscription was universal serfdom in the interests of the autocrats.—Herald of Peace.
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SPIRITISM IS AGGRESSIVE
TWENTY-FIVE years ago we pointed out the Scripture evidences that Spiritism would be one of the terrible deceptions of the end of this age. Evidences to this effect multiply daily. The outlook is so terrible that we must warn all within our reach to beware of everything connected with the occult—Hypnotism, Spiritism, etc. All they ask is INVESTIGATION—”they do the rest.” The Bible is our only proper point of contact with the unknown spirit world, and it warns us to have nothing to do with the wicked spirits which deceptively personate the dead, who “know not anything.”—Eccl. 9:5.
By reason of having followed heathen fallacies and neglected the Bible, Christendom is peculiarly in danger along this line. Believing that the dead are not dead, but more than ever alive, they naturally expect personal interest in their affairs, and in the advice which deceptive spirits most cunningly offer to mislead them. This is one of the “strong delusions” of our day, which only the consecrated ones, guided by the divine revelation, will be able to resist steadfastly: and even “the very elect” would be deceived were it possible;—but God’s providence makes this impossible.
SAME METHOD AS IN EVOLUTION THEORY.
Notice the method by which the Evolution theory led on to Higher Criticism infidelity, which now rules in one-half the pulpits of Christendom and is rapidly grasping the remainder and the rank and file of all the cultured. Did not noted scientists carry the torch and guide the way? And is it not the same now with Spiritism?
While in Great Britain a prominent Episcopalian minister is relating to the public his experiences in spirit communication, even to the extent of having
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parcels transported for miles and delivered in an instant, in our own land the Rev. R. Heber Newton, D.D., declares that he has had sufficient proof to convince him that spirit-communication with the dead is possible and probable, and that he favors scientific research on the subject. And the Rev. I. K. Funk, D.D., one of the most prominent Methodists, declares that he has been and still is investigating spirit phenomena.
Dr. Funk’s latest pronouncement on the subject, published in the leading newspapers of January 22, is:
“Dr. Richard Hodgson has kept his promise to the Psychical Society. I have had a most remarkable interview with him, and talked with him in his spirit form last night for ten minutes, as agreed upon before his death. I stood face to face with his spirit, and he told me all was well with him. No one can any longer reasonably doubt that the spirits of the dead communicate with the living.”
The account assures us that the interview took place very early Sunday morning between midnight and one o’clock. We wonder if Rev. Dr. Funk or others of the Psychic Society ever sought as persistently for the Truth in the Word of God! Yet it is still true, “He that seeketh findeth;” and the thing sought is generally the thing found. Let us not seek with those who have familiar spirits, but to the living God for our counsel.—Isa. 8:19.
We quote from the public prints as follows:—
“‘It is true,’ cried the Rev. Mrs. Pepper, exultingly, last night. ‘The spirit relation with Dr. Hodgson has been established. From the dead he has come back, not in the material sense, of course, but he has actually communicated with us from the beyond as he promised. After weeks of trying we have succeeded. The world could ask for no greater proof.’
“The seance at which Dr. Hodgson’s spirit is said to have come back to earth to make good the promise made by him, was held shortly after midnight yesterday morning at the home of Mrs. Pepper, at No. 258 Monroe street, Brooklyn.
“Only the head of the Spiritualistic Church and Dr. Funk were present. For weeks the two had striven to enter into conversation with the dead man, but some atmospheric disturbance always caused failure.
“Suddenly, Dr. Funk and Mrs. Pepper declare, the longed-for communication was established. It was while the minds of both were intensely concentrated on the subject. The room in which they were was absolutely quiet, and it seemed that the session must meet with failure, like the ones previous, when suddenly, they declare, Dr. Hodgson’s spirit responded to the summons.
“‘My soul was filled with rapture,’ Dr. Funk declared. ‘I realized that I and I alone had been the fortunate one to receive Dr. Hodgson’s long-promised message. It was unfortunate that Mrs. Pepper had to leave the room, else she, too, would have talked to him.’
PSYCHIC STUDENTS INTERESTED
“No more intensely absorbing problem has ever confronted the fraternity of the psychic societies at large and caused more curiosity on the part of the lay public who have been watching the case than Dr. Hodgson’s promise to communicate with his fellows from the spirit world.
“Dr. Hodgson was president of the Society for Psychic Research, and his promise aroused world-wide interest. Dr. Hodgson fell dead while playing baseball in Boston, on December 20. Four weeks passed and nothing was heard from him. Branches of the Psychic Society in various cities of the country were making constant effort to enter into spiritual communication with Dr. Hodgson.
“In life Dr. Hodgson made every possible effort to communicate with those who had gone before. He approached every new manifestation of the supernatural with the mind of a skeptic. He would not believe in anything unless it could be proved to his own analytical mind.
DEVOTED LIFE TO THIS PROBLEM
“He dealt Theosophy the hardest blow it ever received by denouncing Mme. Blavatsky as a fraud, and proving that the so-called supernatural things which she performed were the simplest kind of artifices. Yet he firmly believed that he had many times communicated with the dead, and he devoted his life to the proof of the theory that intercourse between the living and dead was possible. Many times prior to his death Dr. Hodgson openly declared that he would certainly put the question to the proof by personally communicating with some member of the Psychic Society from the world beyond.
“On Dec. 20, when Dr. Hodgson fell dead, he was at the Union Boat Club, apparently in the best of health. Heart disease took him off in the twinkling of an eye. When four weeks had passed and no word came from the mysterious bourne beyond the vail, some of the weaker members of the Psychic Societies began to doubt that the communication would ever be established. The stronger members of the cult declared that Dr. Hodgson had not yet got into complete accord with the spiritual world because he had not been dead long enough to have found the proper ‘communicator.’
“Dr. Hodgson in life usually communicated with the dead through Mrs. Leonora Piper, the noted Boston medium, who proved unsatisfactory to him occasionally, however, because but few of the spirits would send messages through her.
“It had been expected by those who were the most intimate with the Boston psychist in life that his first manifestation, if ever made, would come through James H. Hyslop, former professor of logic, ethics and psychology at Columbia University. Prof. Hyslop was one of Dr. Hodgson’s friends and intimate co-workers in the field of psychic research. Both served on the committee appointed to determine whether Mrs. Piper, America’s most famous medium, really communed with the dead or was just a clever fraud. Both arrived at the same conclusion, that Mrs. Piper was all that she claimed to be. Dr. Hodgson and Professor Hyslop attended seventeen sittings at which Mrs. Piper demonstrated her power, and the report made by them was as follows:—
“‘The theory of fraud is not tenable in the case.'”
THE CUNNING OF THE SCHEME
Note the cunning of the “lying spirits.” (2 Thess. 2:9.) They not only get hold of the most prominent men possible, but they use them well for world-wide advertising. For instance, the seance with Dr. Hodgson could as well have taken place the day after he died (or the day before, for that matter) as a month after, so far as the deceiving spirits were concerned; but the delay was to arouse curiosity and deepen interest. The delay of a month, the correspondence between the prominent people of the Society for Psychical Research, the questions, hopes, fears, midnight vigils with mediums, now called “sensitives,” all whetted expectancy
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and made the matter ten-fold more notable than it otherwise would have been. Even now the message is to be held back awhile until the public is anxious for it.
AUSTRALIA NOT OVERLOOKED
The demon-spirits seem specially to angle for the English-speaking peoples. Thus far-off Australia is having its full share of attention, and some of the most pronounced manifestations of power yet made anywhere. Well-attested accounts are published to the effect that a Mr. Stanford, brother to Hon. Leland Stanford (deceased), founder of Stanford University, has recently found a “sensitive” through whom he was able to secure remarkable manifestations of spirit powers. The published accounts show that at seances covering several nights, and at which various prominent persons were present, miracles were performed by the spirits for the asking. For illustration, a sea-fish, still alive and wet with salt water, was deposited in a closed room by unseen spirit hands. Rare ancient coins, etc., of Egypt were deposited within a few seconds after the expression of the request. A bird on the nest with its young, the latter still asleep, was similarly presented, claimed to be from India.
The curios from Egypt and India are claimed to have great value; and the newspapers have been kept busy telling that Mr. Stanford had offered the collection, free, to the College founded by his brother; that the President of the University had declined them because of the manner in which they were obtained (the conduct of the latter has been denominated bigotry); and finally the said Chancellor of Stanford University has publicly denied that the curios have yet been tendered. All this has stirred up talk respecting the occult as never before in modern times. Whoever is guiding these wicked spirits shows great sagacity and insight into human conditions.
THE LONDON DAILY MAIL’S SAY
The London “Daily Mail” of January 23 devotes nearly a page to this topic, “Are the Dead Really Communicating?”—heading it with the likenesses of “Three Famous Scientists Who Encourage Psychical Research—Sir Oliver Lodge, Dr. A. R. Wallace and Prof. Crookes.” We give some extracts from the article as follows:—
MENTAL, MORAL AND PHYSICAL EFFECTS OF SPIRITISM ALL BAD
“It is daily becoming more and more evident that of all the problems that are at present agitating the public mind the one presented by spiritism and by modern psychical investigation is having the preeminence.
“The interest in the subject, although for obvious reasons not very apparent in the surface-movements of life, is nevertheless a keen and a widespread one and is growing in intensity day by day.
“In view of the unhesitating testimony recently given by savants of high standing and of European reputation, increasing numbers of skeptically inclined persons are reluctantly abandoning their attitude of reserve and are beginning to realize the seriousness of the subject and its far-reaching issues.
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“The consequence is that the study of occult subjects and the search and craving for phenomena is daily growing apace, and that a voracious appetite for literature in any way bearing upon these subjects is being created. In thousands of families the ‘spirit circle’ is an honored institution, and the reception of messages from ‘departed friends and relatives’ is becoming an everyday occurrence.
“How very deeply these practices and the results flowing from them are affecting the mental and moral life of the community is only known to those who are intimately connected with the movement and who have opportunities of looking behind the scenes. And it must be admitted that, strange as such a phenomenon may appear at first sight, it is one at which we cannot be very much surprised.
“When one bears in mind the natural tendencies and cravings of the human heart, the innate desire of most men to have some definite answer to the whence and whither of human life, the doubts on the other hand which recent research has aroused, and the general tendency of modern rationalistic thought to destroy belief in the supernatural, one can scarcely wonder at a universal and growing interest in phenomena increasingly believed to be a means by which the age-long question of man will be answered, and by which the fact of a future life will be established on a sound, scientific foundation.
“Now what, briefly, are the facts of the case at this present time?
“English science, it is well known, has, broadly speaking, given its verdict. We have it on the authority of men whose veracity cannot be doubted, and whose scientific authority no one can reasonably call in question—who, moreover, have risked their reputation in giving their testimony—
“1. That the much-disputed phenomena occur, and that many of them are of an objective and tangible character.
“2. That they are often governed by intelligence—that intelligence in many instances extraneous in its nature and operations.
“This testimony is being added to day by day by the published writings of eminent foreign scientists, and it is being confirmed by thousands of intelligent spiritists and of private investigators all the world over. ‘The alleged facts,’ writes Professor A. R. Wallace, ‘which the scientific world scouted and scoffed at as absurd and impossible now, one after another, prove to be real facts, and, strange to say, with little or no exaggeration, since almost every one of them, though implying abnormal power in human beings, or the agency of a spirit-world around us, has been strictly paralleled in the present day and has been subjected to the close scrutiny of the scientific and skeptical with little or no modification of their essential nature.’
“It was, of course, to be expected that testimony of such a character, and coming from such unlikely quarters, would powerfully affect the public mind, and that it would, in the course of time, give rise to questions of the gravest possible import.
ARE THE DEAD COMMUNICATING?
“The greatest of these questions—and, indeed, the one which may be termed the burning question of the hour—is the one which has reference to the nature and aim of the intelligence which is displaying itself. Is it human in character—in other words, are the dead communicating, and are we by these means receiving demonstrative evidence that there is life and a world beyond the grave?
“It is impossible for those who are familiar with the subject and with the results of the most recent investigations to doubt that science itself is tending in the direction of an affirmative answer to this question.
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If a certain learned reserve still characterizes official statements, it is difficult not to read between the lines and to see what the ultimate verdict is likely to be.
“The pronouncements of individual scientists, speaking in their private and personal capacity, can leave no room for doubt in the matter. And the cry which they have sent forth has found an echo in thousands of human minds, and has given an impulse to the spiritistic movement, the effects of which are but too plainly and painfully visible in every sphere of our social life. Indeed, so strong are the impressions created that the utmost impatience is being exhibited toward those who would raise a note of warning and who cannot join in the exultant cry of the multitude.
“Ignorance, prejudice, religious bigotry, and narrow mindedness are the epithets applied to persons who, while admitting the actuality and intelligence of the phenomena, nevertheless deny that it has been shown to be that of the dead.
A DISSENTIENT VOICE
“And yet it is manifest from the evidence at our disposal that there are incontrovertible facts pointing in this direction, and that this is an aspect of the subject which should awaken in thoughtful minds the most serious considerations. I can but briefly indicate what an experience of nearly twenty years has taught me, and why I cannot share the popular view as to the nature of the mysterious phenomena under consideration.
“1. It is certain that the identity of the communicating intelligences has not been established. Although it is admitted that in practically every instance the entities claim to be the spirits of departed men and women it is certain that that claim has invariably broken down in the presence of real test conditions. The most recent psychical research in this direction has yielded wholly negative results. Those whose names were best known in spiritistic and psychical research circles and who have practically spent their lives in the search for such evidence, have, after death, been unable to furnish it themselves. They have not found it possible to supply what may be termed the missing link of the spiritistic hypothesis.
“2. It is a known and admitted characteristic of the intelligences that they attempt to personate deceased individuals. Indeed, so constantly does this characteristic display itself that it constitutes the chief difficulty in the way of satisfactory investigations. We meet with fraud and trickery on every side and with the most heartless deception that the imagination can conceive. The most trusted “spirit friends or relations,” sometimes after years of intercourse, and often on their own admission, turn out to be masquerading entities who have culled the information needed for the impersonation from the passive minds and memories of the experimenters, and who by some slip or some unusually bold manoeuvre in the end turn the tables against themselves.
THE SPIRIT INTELLIGENCE
“3. The moral character of the manifesting intelligence is invariably of a low order. This fact is and must be admitted by all unprejudiced inquirers who have an accurate knowledge of the subject and who have themselves observed and experimented for a sufficient length of time. In numerous instances, of course, this moral depravity is not immediately apparent—indeed it often remains hidden for years under a mass of platitudes and of high-sounding phrases, but it almost always discloses itself in the end. I know of instances which are appalling in character, and a recent publication of mine has placed material in my possession strongly confirming and illustrating the truth of this statement. A great ecclesiastic sent for me not long ago and told me instances which had been privately communicated to him and which had caused him such alarm that he was anxious to enter upon an active crusade against spiritistic practices and teachings. …
SPIRITISM AND LUNACY
“4. As to the moral effects of these practices a big volume might be written, and even then the half would not have been told. I have in my possession communications from former spiritists which throw a lurid light upon the subject, and which suggest the gravest possible considerations. As far back as 1877 Dr. L. S. Forbes Winslow wrote on ‘spiritualistic madness.’ ‘Ten thousand unfortunate people are at the present time confined in lunatic asylums on account of having tampered with the supernatural. … I could quote many instances where men of the highest ability have, so to speak, neglected all and followed the doctrines of spiritualism only to end their days in a lunatic asylum.’ And grave and weighty are the warnings more recently given by Professor Barrett, a former president of the Society for Psychical Research, and by Dr. Van Eeden, a Dutch physician, who has devoted much time and labor to the study of psychical phenomena. The latter tells us that in this unexplored region lie risks of error more serious than in any other department of science, and not merely of error, scientific and intellectual, but also of moral error. And it is this which seems to him ‘to justify the orthodox religions in condemning the evocation of spirits as immoral, as infringing upon secrets hidden from man by the Eternal.’ … “5. The teaching imparted by the intelligences is wholly contradictory in character. … There is unanimity on one point only and that is as regards the fundamental
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doctrines of Christian faith. It is as a medium, or seer, or human being of exceptional power and degree of development, that they seek to present Christ, and it is the subversion of faith in him as a divine person that the spirit messages ultimately aim at. The truth of this statement is fully established by the writings of the best of our modern spiritists. From personal letters which have reached me it is evident that the writer had in each single instance lost his faith in Christianity, and was suffering the keenest grief and disappointment in consequence.
AN ENEMY IN THE HOME
“It is for the reasons thus briefly stated that I cannot share the popular view respecting the interpretation of the phenomena of spiritism. On the contrary, I am thoroughly convinced that a terrible deception lurks behind these phenomena and that a grave and daily growing peril is menacing society. A dangerous and subtle enemy is silently creeping into our homes and families, and the astonishing thing is that our pastors and teachers are so strangely silent on the subject and are doing little or nothing to warn the people. I am personally strongly convinced that the policy of silence on the subject, so frequently adopted with a view to the avoidance of greater peril, is no longer a safe and a wise one.
“In my opinion our safeguard lies in taking every opportunity of conveying accurate information, and above all things stating all the facts of the case. It is the one-sided presentation of the subject and the scientific support which is being given to it that are doing all the mischief and that are hourly increasing the spread of evil.
“Let it once be clearly and fully known that these ‘dear friends’ on the other side of life ruin and desolate
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homes, that they drive men and women to destruction and to the madhouse, that they undermine religious faith and confidence, and that in a thousand instances they bring about an utter weariness and a detestation of the duties of the present life, and thinking men will abandon their intercourse with such beings and will seek for the interpretation of the problems elsewhere than in scientific records.”
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ONE-DAY CONVENTION REPORTS CANTON, O. PITTSBURG, PA
THE convention at Canton, O., was a decided success so far as human judgment could determine. Nearby towns were well represented—as many as twenty-three came from Cleveland. The morning text was, Mark 9:47,48. Many of you received the daily press report of that discourse. The afternoon session for the public was well attended. The Opera House was crowded—about 1500 persons gave close attention for two hours to our discourse on “To Hell and Back.” The friends at Canton must have advertised extensively, for the day was not favorable for a large attendance.
The friends of the Allegheny Church thought that Pittsburgers should have a chance to hear on the subject. They secured Pittsburg Carnegie Hall and advertised liberally a meeting for Sunday evening, March 4, for the topic, “To Hell and Back.” They did nobly, and on a stormy night packed the house with a most intelligent audience, which gave closest attention and in various ways indicated deep interest in what they heard. The official count of the attendance was 2,614. A number of friends were present from surrounding towns. The regular afternoon service was held in Bible House Chapel: the discourse of that occasion you have in the secular press.
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THE CHESTNUT BURR
“IN DUE TIME”
Behold, these burrs a story tell;
One closed, the other opened wide:
And should we heed the story well,
Great things to us it may betide.
We note with thorns that each is armed;
The one its secret will not broach.
The wise by this are fully warned,
Forbidding thus a close approach.
The other opened wide to view,
Discloses rich, sweet fruit within;
Yet once ’twas like the first one too,
And held its secret safe from men.
What wrought this change? Pray bring to light
Why one should yield its fruit so fair,
And one remain unopened quite,
Absorbing God’s pure light and air?
Ah! There’s the key, my brother true;
For when the Sun completes its task,
Its kernel then will come to view,
In God’s own time. Who more can ask?
For God has times and seasons too,
And all shall be as He has said;
Tho’ this is known to but the few,
Who to the world are “reckoned” dead.
Just as the burr so slowly grew,
Knowing the seasons in their round,
To God’s appointed time was true,
Its open petals then were found;
Thus Truth shall yield her fruits to men,
When ripened in God’s own fixed day;
Her portals firmly closed ’til then,
Nor yield to aught that men may say.
Shall we not profit then by this?
With patience wait ’til He reveals
His times and purposes to men,
Withdrawing that which now conceals?
But we are told in His own word,
The “wise” alone shall understand.
Then make us “wise,” most gracious Lord,
To know what cometh from thy hand.
—A. J. MORRIS.
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SOME of the dear brethren earnestly striving to conform their lives to the divine Word are noticing from the reading of MILLENNIAL DAWN, Vol. VI., more clearly than ever before the divine regulations respecting methods of procedure as set forth in Matthew 18:15. Some of them need to be reminded that it is not necessary for them to follow out all the regulations there set forth. If they choose to overlook the brother’s fault it is their privilege; but if they cannot overlook the fault, if it continues to injure them, they may not speak of the matter to others but must follow the Lord’s direction there given as the only method by which they can seek redress.
Some inquire respecting the kind of punishment to be meted out to those who are contumacious, who will neither heed the private cry of the brother against impositions nor heed the counsel of two or three brothers nor heed the voice of the Church—what punishment should be applied to these, we are asked. Our reply is that we are not at liberty to punish our brother at all. The Lord proposes to do that; and tells us that at the present time we are not competent to judge the degree of each other’s weakness according to the flesh, and consequently the degree of each other’s responsibility as the Lord would justly measure it. It is ours to forgive, but not ours to punish; it is our privilege to seek to stop the injury which is being done us, but we may not execute any penalty on account of things of the past.
The whole lesson of the Lord’s direction in Matthew 18:15 is to the effect that we are to strive thus to regain our brother’s love, and to stop him from further injuring us. If we succeed in so doing in the same measure we regain him as our brother, we recover him. It is not the thought then that the brother should be brought before the Church to be punished, but merely that as a last resort he be brought before it for reproof, for correction, that he may see the error of his course
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and acknowledge it and cease to do wrong. The effort at every step should be to turn the brother to a right course, not to expose him, not to injure him, not to punish him, for the Lord has said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”
The very most that the Church could do according to this Scripture would be that, after having vainly endeavored to get the brother to repent and reform, it should withdraw special brotherly fellowship from him until such time as he would express a willingness thereafter to do right. Then he should be received again.
Even treating the brother for a time as “a heathen man and a publican” would not mean to do him injury, to castigate him, to pillory him, to expose him to shame or contempt before the world. We are not permitted to do any of these things to heathen men or publicans. He may merely be treated in the meantime in the kindly, courteous way in which it would be proper for us to treat any publican or Gentile, withholding the special rights or privileges or greetings or voting opportunities that belong to the Church as a class separate from the world.
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INFALLIBILITY AND CHURCH ELDERSHIP
Question.—Brother Russell: I received not long since a letter which set forth that you could not be considered infallible, because the writer alleges that you have changed your views respecting the propriety of the various gatherings of the Lord’s people choosing from amongst their number Elders for the oversight of the Lord’s work. The writer of the letter I mention was at one time, I believe, an elder in the St. Louis Church, but being no longer elected by the congregation he disfellowships them as “Babylonish.” In the letter I mention he purports to give an extract from an old WATCH TOWER, which makes it appear that at that time you considered the election of Elders unnecessary. He then quotes from more recent WATCH TOWERS and from MILLENNIAL DAWN, Vol. VI., your words recommending the choosing of Elders and offering suggestions respecting the Scriptural qualifications of such.
My question is, Is this true? Have you changed your view on this subject, and if so may I ask, Why?
Answer.—First of all I hasten to assure you that I have never laid claim to infallibility. I do not expect to be infallible until by the Lord’s grace I shall share a part in the First Resurrection; then, that which is perfect having come, that which is in part shall be done away; we shall see as we are seen and know as we are known.
We accept the writings by the twelve apostles as being so supervised of the Lord as to be free from any error. He himself said of the writers, the apostles, Whatsoever ye shall bind, enforce, on earth will be that which is recognized as bound or enforced in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose or release from on earth shall be loosed or released from in heaven. Hence we may regard the presentations of those twelve men, intended of the Lord to be his special representatives under the holy Spirit’s dispensation, as being infallible, true, inerrant. But there is no ground for believing that any others than the apostles have been so miraculously holden by the power of God as were those twelve, or that we have any authority in the Word of God for considering the words and writings of others as being above or beyond testing and proving by the Scriptures. This has invariably been our presentation. It has been our endeavor to present the Word of God faithfully as he has given us to understand it—to our own Master we stand or fall. Nevertheless we trust that our course has the approval also of such of the Lord’s dear people as, led by his Spirit, are now walking in the light of present truth.
OUR VIEW IS DIFFERENT
We do not deny growing in knowledge, and that we now see in a slightly different light the will of the Lord respecting Elders or leaders in the various little groups of his people. Our error in judgment was in expecting too much of the dear brethren who, coming early into the Truth, became the natural leaders of these little companies. The ideal view of them which we fondly entertained was, that the knowledge of the Truth would have upon them a very humbling effect, causing them to appreciate their own insignificance, and that whatever they knew and were able to present to others was as mouthpieces of God and because used of him. Our ideal hopes were that these would in every sense of the word be examples to the flock; and that should the Lord’s providence bring into the little company one or more equally competent, or more competent, to present the Truth, that the spirit of love would lead them in honor to prefer one another, and thus to help and urge one another to participation in the service of the Church, the body of Christ.
With this thought in mind we concluded that the larger measures of grace and truth now due and appreciated by the Lord’s consecrated people would make it unnecessary for them to follow the course outlined by the apostles in the early Church. Our mistake was in failing to realize that the arrangements outlined by the apostles under divine supervision are superior to anything that others could formulate, and that the Church as a whole will need to have the regulations instituted by the apostles until, by our change in the resurrection, we shall all be made complete and perfect and be directly in association with the Master.
Our mistake gradually dawned upon us as we beheld amongst dear brethren to some extent the spirit of rivalry, and on the part of many a desire to hold the leadership of meetings as an office instead of as a service, and to exclude and hinder from developing as leaders other brethren of equal ability naturally and of equal knowledge of the Truth and competency in wielding the sword of the Spirit. From various little groups of the Lord’s people I received kindly worded inquiries as to what should be done in the case of a brother who wished to lord it over God’s heritage—who wished to run the Church as though he were infallible and as though the brethren generally were of inferior cast. We uniformly advised moderation, especially that the offending brother should be judged leniently, reminding the friends of the Apostle’s intimation that prominence in a teaching capacity is especially dangerous, and that they should in correcting such a brother remember their own weaknesses and dangers in the same direction. But with no uncertain sound we assured them that in the divine order as well as in the rational order the entire congregation
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of the consecrated was to seek and to determine the will of the Lord respecting its leadership, and should not permit any man to usurp this function of the Church and to decide for it that he was the one and only choice of the Lord for the service.
We advised on the contrary that the very evidence of a self-seeking spirit and desire to be greatest was an indication of unfitness for the position, and that to continue a “heady” one in leadership would not only be injurious to the congregation but injurious also to the leader, because we have the Scriptural assurance that God resisteth the proud, the self-seeking, and showeth his favors to the humble. And the Apostle’s exhortation is, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time”—when the perfection of the new body in harmony with the new mind shall have fully taken the place of present imperfections of the flesh.
You have mentioned the St. Louis Church, and I recall that the little company there had difficulty on the score of leadership—and probably with the very writer of the letter you mention. He became offended with the whole company because he was not permitted to manage all the affairs of the Church. He wrote to me insisting that he knew that God had appointed him to that position, and intimating that the congregation had nothing whatever to do in the matter except to support him, and in supporting him to support the Lord and the Lord’s will. He urged that he should not be elected, should not be voted for, but should be accepted by the congregation as of divine appointment. He wished me to urge this upon the congregation.
I demurred, and, in as gentle a manner as I could, pointed out to him that the voice of the Lord as respects our individual conduct is to be sought in our own minds through the aid of the Scriptures, and his voice in respect to the Church is to be sought through an expression of the sentiments of all the consecrated members, each seeking to express to the best of his or her ability the mind of the Spirit as secured from the Word.
The brother evidently felt hurt that I did not recognize his divine appointment, and now after several years the resentment, I presume, is showing itself through the letter you refer to, copies of which, I understand, have been sent to others as well as to you.
Such facts and experiences demonstrated to my mind not only the wisdom of the apostolic method in respect to “Elders in every city” (Titus 1:5) but also the necessity for such a course—that otherwise the Lord’s people would not make the proper progress in knowledge and in the graces of the Spirit, nor come to fully appreciate the liberty wherewith Christ makes free, and the equality as brethren of one cast, one class, one company, one body, of all who are trusting in the precious blood of Christ and fully devoted to his service.
I am neither ashamed of the position I first took nor of my present position on this question. It does not surprise me that I did not grasp the full situation, that I did not make due allowance for the ambitions and selfishness which still pertain to the flesh of the friends even after the begetting of the Spirit and the setting of affections on things above and the endeavor to be governed by the wisdom from above.
Without instituting a comparison as between myself or any one else at the present time as mouthpieces of the Lord and those twelve special mouthpieces so marvellously guided of the Lord at the beginning of
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this dispensation, I venture to call attention to the fact that even amongst the chiefest of those times was required to realize the mind of the Spirit on various subjects: for instance, the Apostle Peter needed a vision and subsequent experiences before he could learn the lessons that the middle wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles had been broken down, so that now under the terms of this Gospel dispensation there is neither Jew nor Gentile, bond nor free, who have any special prominence or preference in respect to the Lord’s favors. Peter had a vision of one kind to show him the truth on that subject; I had a vision of another kind—a lesson of experience coming to me from the various little congregations of the Lord’s people, which drove me to the apostolic method and convinced me that it is still necessary for the proper development and upbuilding and progress of the Church which is the body of Christ.
PRACTICALLY NO CHANGE
As I understand you, the brother’s letter implies that the fact that the little churches choose their own leaders instead of the leaders choosing themselves proves that we have become sectarian, Babylonish. Well, it is difficult to tell how things will appear to those who begin to lose the spirit of the truth and who begin to go into darkness. As a matter of fact, we never did advocate that the Church should recognize a leader merely because he said he thought himself divinely appointed. Our thought was that the Lord’s spirit prevailing amongst those possessing the Truth would so actuate them all that with one heart and one mind each would be glad to yield opportunities and render service to the others to the best of his ability, and that thus the Lord’s will would be accomplished. The whole mistake was in expecting too much of fellow servants, neglecting to follow the apostolic method of selecting the latter by the “stretching forth of the hand,” or using other means of ascertaining the opinion of the consecrated respecting the Lord’s mind on the subject.
NO ORGANIZATION NOW
Those who declare that we have formed a sect or a denomination misrepresent the facts. A sect is a split off, and we split off from nothing. Our endeavor is to bring all of the people of God into heart-relationship and fellowship with the Lord and with each other. We accept all as brothers who trust in the precious blood as their redemption price and who profess and evidence a full consecration to the Lord’s service. We bar no one from Christian fellowship along these lines, whatever may be his theories on outside and less essential subjects.
We are not a denomination either, for we accept no name but that of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are Christians, no more and no less. We accept all names given to the Church in the Scriptures, not even taking one of them as a distinctive title as do our friends of the Christian denomination. Each individual has his relationship to the Lord, and because related to the Lord is related to all others similarly related, because the body of Christ is one. This, our union with the Lord, is the union of the Scriptures, and the only one: and so far as we know no other company of the Lord’s people take this
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position in its entirety nor stand upon it fully. By the Lord’s grace we hope to thus stand until he shall say “Well done!” and shall receive us into his glorious Kingdom.
THE TERM “BABYLONISH”
The word Babylonish, as we have frequently pointed out, signifies confusion. Not confusion as respects organization, for the various departments of Babylon, its various denominations, have very strict organizations that permit of no confusion whatever. Babylon’s confusion is in her doctrines, which are unscriptural, confusing, contradictory, many of them erroneous. We fear that the brother whose letter you quote from is the one who is in danger of getting into a Babylonish condition—his ideas are certainly quite confused in respect to the question of Elders. In insisting that he and other Elders should rule the Church by divine appointment and without any human appointment he is getting to even a more extreme position than does the Pope of Rome, whom we think to be Babylonish enough; for even the Pope of Rome does not attain his position by a usurpation, but by an election by the Cardinals.
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INTERNATIONAL S.S. LESSON REVIEW
Golden Text:—”And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness.”—Matt. 4:23
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A LESSON ON TEMPERANCE
—PROVERBS 23:29-35—MARCH 25—
Golden Text:—”At last it biteth like a serpent and stingeth like an adder.”—v. 32
THE Bible contains numerous cautions against intemperance, and declares that no drunkard shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. It follows that this must be a proper portion of the meat in due season. However, since probably only a very small minority of the “saints” are thus endangered, we need not give the subject great prominence in this journal. We do desire, however, to let all know that we are in sympathy with temperance in respect to intoxicants and “in all things.”
We are in sympathy with the spirit of “total abstinence,” too, though we cannot subscribe to all that is said and done and hoped for by its advocates. All true “saints” would surely be glad to forego their own liberty that thereby they might promote the general welfare and fulfil the advice of the Apostle, that—”We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” Seeing the terrible injury being done by strong drink throughout the civilized world, surely every reader of this journal is now and always will be a temperance advocate—especially by example—while telling the “good tidings of great joy.”
Among the many things for which the people of this land may well thank God is the temperance sentiment which prevails here as nowhere else in “Christendom.” (Strange to say, “Christendom” is far behind Heathendom on this question.) Throughout all Europe the blight of intoxication is awfully prevalent. The statistics of Great Britain, France, Russia and Germany show conditions very much worse than prevail here.
Germany has long boasted that her people, even the children, drink wine and beer freely without injury; but changed conditions show changed results now. Mark the following report:
CHILDREN HABITUAL DRUNKARDS
TEMPERANCE WORKERS IN GERMANY FIND STARTLING CONDITIONS PREVAIL
Berlin January, 6.—Friends of temperance reform in Germany have been collecting some startling statistics regarding the habitual use of alcohol by school children in the Thuringian States, where their investigations were mainly pursued. They found in one class of forty-nine children of the average age of seven that thirty-eight of these regularly drank wine, forty regularly absorbed schnaps, and all of them drank beer. In the higher class of girls, twenty-seven out of twenty-eight regularly drank wine, fourteen schnaps and all beer. Of these twenty-one admitted that they had been more or less intoxicated on the occasion of weddings, birthdays, etc. In the town of Ortelsburg, in East Prussia, the condition of affairs is very bad. In one school fourteen children were found with brandy bottles in their pockets, which they had received from their parents. Boys nine years of age had to be sent home because they were drunk.
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“TAKE HEED HOW YE HEAR”
—MATTHEW 7:15-29—APRIL 1—
“Be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only.”—Jas. 1:22
OUR lesson follows the Sermon on the Mount, and was evidently intended as a parable, to impress upon the minds of the Lord’s people the importance of what they had heard—the importance of obeying as well as hearing the good tidings. It sets forth the good results of careful obedience, in contrast with the unsatisfactory results to those who would fail to obey. It is evidently not evil surmising if we are on the lookout for false teachers, who our Lord declared would come amongst his sheep to mislead them. Neither can it be evil speaking to call the attention of the sheep to such false teachers. The Master and the apostles foretold and forewarned against them and so should all who are faithfully following the Master’s example.
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But we are to distinguish them in the manner which our Lord and the apostles clearly indicated: however smooth, polished, educated, gentle, they may be on the surface, we must get to know them better than by surface indications before we may dare trust them as leaders of the flock—we must become intimately acquainted with them, their motives, ambitions, private life. This our Lord intimates by telling us to beware of them if they are ravenous, greedy, selfish, even though outwardly they may have a sanctimonious air. The Apostle speaks of these, saying that “grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock”: “And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you”: “even denying the Lord that bought them.”—Acts 20:29; 2 Pet. 2:1,3.
We are to balance the matter, however; and while vigilant to detect and resist the wolves in sheep’s clothing, as well as out of it, we should remember our Lord’s teachings on the other side of the question—that those who are not against us are on our part, and that we should neither reprove as wolves nor disown as brethren those whose hearts, whose characters, give evidence that they belong to the Lord, even though they follow not with us in respect to his service, the promulgation of his message, etc. In other words, we are to love all and wish God-speed to all loving the Lord and manifesting his Spirit, whether they associate with us or not. In a word, the divine rule is very broad and very narrow at the same time. It is narrow as respects discipleship and character: faith in the redeeming blood, consecration to the Master, and a manifestation of his Spirit are the lines of discipleship—broad within themselves, but narrow as compared to the lines of the world.
“KNOW THEM BY THEIR FRUITS”
Anticipating our query respecting how we may know the true from the false our Lord says, “Ye shall know them by their fruits.” He illustrates this by suggesting that grapes are not to be expected on thorn-bushes nor figs on thistles, although it is said that there is a thorn-bush in Palestine which grows a fruit somewhat resembling grapes, and a kind of thistle with heads shaped like figs. Nevertheless, no one was in danger of being deceived thereby, nor should any among the Lord’s people be in doubt respecting the character and the fruitage of the life of those who are the followers of Christ.
The thought is that the Lord’s true people are of such a kind that the fruit of their lives is nourishing and refreshing toward all who have fellowship with them. On the other hand there are persons who, thistle-like, are always scattering seeds that will cause trouble—false doctrines, evil surmisings and errors; and there are some who, like thorn-bushes, instead of bearing refreshing fruit, are continually reaching out to impede, to irritate, to annoy, to vex, to poison, to injure, those with whom they come in contact. The intimation clearly is that the Lord’s people ought to have little difficulty in distinguishing between the false teachers who would mislead them and the under-shepherds who gladly lay down their lives in the service of the flock. The one class are continually mischief makers, underminers, destroyers. The other class are helpers, builders, strengtheners, peacemakers.
Not content with giving us a word-picture distinguishing between wolves and sheep, between injurious plants and fruitful ones, our Lord next institutes another illustration still more searching—contrasting a healthy fruit-tree with a diseased or evil one, contrasting a healthy Christian with a perverted and misguided one. He declares that a sound tree brings forth good fruit, but a corrupt or diseased tree brings forth undesirable, evil fruit. How we have all witnessed this in nature—the sound apples come from good apple trees that are in healthy condition. The knotty, wormy, unsatisfactory fruit comes from trees that are diseased, under-nourished, uncared for, unpruned, attacked by worms, etc.
In this illustration our Lord seems to refer to the fact that those who are his disciples, sound and proper enough to begin with, might become evil, might lose their spiritual strength and fruitfulness—their carefulness. Lack of nourishment in the soil would expose a tree to disease, blight. So the Christian who would add to his attainment in knowledge is liable to decline in spirituality unless he have spiritual nourishment of the right kind. As without pruning the tree would develop suckers, which would corrupt it and ultimately destroy its fruitfulness, so the Christian needs the disciplines, the prunings, that he may develop in character and the graces of the Spirit. Our heavenly Father is the great husbandman and has promised us the proper care, yet it is not exactly with us as with the trees; for because of our higher endowment, our godlike quality of individuality, will, we are dealt with differently.
To a considerable degree it is for us to determine what nourishment we will have. The Lord supplies the good soil of Truth, the refreshing showers of grace, and the nourishment of precious promises, but it is for each of his people to use these and thereby to grow in grace, knowledge and love. We cannot, then, blame the Husbandman if we come short, and be unfruitful from lack of nourishment. None of his good promises can fail; whatever failing there may be must be in ourselves. Likewise with the pruning—the Lord will send the chastisements, trials, difficulties; but with our independent will it is possible for us to pass these by and, failing to use them, fail to correct the weaknesses, shortcomings and wrong developments of our nature. It is possible with us, notwithstanding all the development or pruning we may receive, to set our affections on houses, lands, or earthly aims, objects or individuals, which, like the suckers in the illustration, would draw away our vitality and hinder our bearing of acceptable fruit.
The sound tree cannot bear poor fruit, nor the corrupted or decayed tree bring forth good fruit. While each of the Lord’s people is to examine himself before the mirror of God’s Word, to ascertain his own character, disposition, likeness or unlikeness to divine standards, nevertheless, in this matter of deciding about fruit, whether it be good or bad, each of the Lord’s people is called upon to exercise judgment in regard to others as well as to himself—what are the results, the fruitage, the token of my own life, and what is the fruitage, results, token of my brother, my neighbor. Our Lord’s intimation is that these tests are specially applicable to those who would be leaders of his flock. They should all be examples, bearers of good fruit, and these good fruits should be looked for as a test of good, sound character—a character fully in harmony with the Lord. True, all are imperfect,
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and with the best of intentions we cannot do all that we would, but the weakest of the Lord’s brethren must bear some fruits that other brethren could discern, and these fruits should be accepted by the brethren according to the divine standard, viz., not of the flesh but of the spirit, the will, the intention. So, then, every true child of God should manifest before the brethren and before the world honesty, faithfulness of intention, a consecrated heart, mind, will, which would seek in all things to do the will of the Father in heaven.
In Palestine, to this day, fruit trees are taxed, and hence a tree which will not bear, whose fruitage is poor, cannot be tolerated, for it would entail a loss instead of a revenue. Similarly, the assurance that the Lord will ultimately cast away every unfruitful one—”every branch in the vine that beareth not fruit he taketh away”—while every branch that beareth fruit is purged, that it may bring forth more fruit, is a further lesson along the same line.
Our Lord used a fig-tree to represent the Jewish nation, and pointed out that it was not bringing forth the desired fruitage, and that therefore it would be cut down and destroyed. The symbolical “fire” which utterly destroyed the Jewish nation made an end of their tree. The Jews will indeed receive a further blessing at the hand of the Lord, but, as he declares through the prophet, it will be “not by your Covenant.” The blessing to come to Israel and all the nations in the future will be the New Covenant. Similarly, in the end of this Gospel age, not only will there be an individual test of the Lord’s people as respects good and bad fruit, but Christendom as a whole, as a system, will be found unfruitful, unsatisfactory; and when the true saints of the Lord shall have been gathered out and glorified, the tree, the system as a whole, will go down, in the great time of trouble with which this age shall close and the new dispensation begin. Christendom will indeed be favored and blessed under the New Covenant of the Millennial age, but its special privileges and opportunities of the present time under the Abrahamic Covenant will be forever gone.
“I NEVER KNEW YOU”
Continuing his discourse, our Lord implies eventually a great number of nominal followers devoid of his Spirit, not bringing forth the fruitage that he desires, not members of his called and chosen and faithful class, though outwardly, nominally, all of these. Of this class he says there shall be many. He points down to our day, saying, “in that day”—in the closing of this age, in the testing time, in the time when he shall come to make up his jewels and to glorify them as his Bride, his members, his associates in the Kingdom. Many at that time—in our day—will profess that they know the Lord, that they are prophesiers or teachers, that they are casting out devils, opposing sin and multitudinous forms of evil, and that they are carrying on mighty works, benevolent institutions, colleges, seminaries, etc., in his name. The Revised Version gives, “by thy name,” intimating
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that the name of Christ is used rather as a charm, to conjure by.
How true is this picture to the conditions of our day! How many take the Lord’s name in vain, associating it with their enterprises, which are often in direct conflict with the Master’s Word and Spirit. Why do they use his name? Simply as a talisman to conjure by, to increase their influence, to satisfy their own minds, to make themselves believe that in doing their own wills they are working the will of God. How true this is in respect to nearly all religious institutions of our day! Take the churches, for instance, recognizing more or less clearly the divine opposition to their sectarian spirit and creeds and methods and organizations—they, nevertheless, are not satisfied unless they somehow connect the name of Christ with their institutions and arrangements.
But the testing time is near—the Lord will inquire respecting the fruit of these systems; he will not be deceived; yea, he will expose the bad fruit, that all may see that his judgment is just. It will be manifest that neglect of his Word has led to degeneracy, decay—that the suckers of worldly ambition, pride, wealth, show, etc., have been cultivated, notwithstanding all of the trying experiences which might have served to prune these. It will be shown that many of the prophets of Babylon are false prophets, whose teachings have misguided the people and, instead of blessing, have done injury, instead of enlightening have blinded. It will be manifested that many of them are ravening wolves in sheep’s clothing, hungry with ambition for fame and prominence and honor of men, and willing to barter the interests of the flock for their personal aggrandizement. It will be shown that much of this conjuring in the name of Jesus has been merely a cloak under which, deceiving and being deceived, sectarian fruitage, and not the love, joy, peace and holy Spirit, have been cultivated. The day will declare it, will show it, will manifest it. The whole world shall be witness eventually that God’s name was proven a dishonor, and his Word misrepresented, because false teachers were looking every one to gain from his own quarter—his own denomination.—Isa. 56:11.
The Lord never knew the sects—he never recognized them, he never authorized them; they are of men, and for men, not of the Lord nor for the Lord’s glory. Claiming that all there is of Christianity is due to themselves, they are proud and boastful and realize not that the Lord’s true cause would have flourished far better without them in the simplicity of the early Church, one in redemption through the precious blood and in consecration to the Redeemer. The gathering out of the Bride class and the leaving of the remainder will be saying in effect, “I never knew you, never recognized you, never authorized you;” and these unauthorized sects will go down in the great time of trouble. We are glad, however, that the thousands and millions who have been deceived by these false systems will have a glorious opportunity during the Millennial age to come to a knowledge of the Truth and a right understanding of the character of God as revealed in the fulfilment of his gracious plan. Thus many who miss the great prize may still have a glorious opportunity for the lesser prize or favor of God in restitution, etc.
“DEPART FROM ME, YE THAT WORK INIQUITY”
We believe that there are active workers in the sectarian systems called “Babylon” who will yet be reached by the knowledge of the Truth and delivered. Our Lord intimates this, saying, “Come out of her, my people.” Some of his people evidently are in Babylon, and it is our present
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mission in the name of the Lord to call these out—through the presentation of the Present Truth, which will show to all who are truly the Lord’s where they stand, and their duty. Others of the active workers in the iniquitous systems, which are counterfeits of the true, misrepresenters of God’s message and binders and enslavers of the Lord’s people, because not at heart loyal to him, will not come out of Babylon, and therefore will share in the condemnation coming upon her. They will go into the great time of trouble, and for a season at least be cut off from all fellowship with the Lord. These workers of iniquity will have their hands full of the trouble which they have helped to bring upon the world of mankind by their misrepresentations of the divine character and plan. It will be a terrible chastisement, and our hope for them is that “when the judgments of the Lord are abroad in the earth all the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.”—Isa. 26:9.
ON THE ROCK OR ON THE SAND
This picture or parable of one house built upon the rock and the other house built upon the sand refers not to the Church and the world, but to two parties in the Church. None are in the parable except “those who hear these sayings of mine.” The world hears not our Lord’s message at all. As the Apostle declares, the world is both deaf and blind to spiritual things. Those who hearken to and appreciate the Lord’s sayings represent at least a nominal Church, and amongst those of the nominal Church are some who are obedient to the Lord’s Word while others are disobedient. The obedient are built upon the rock, the disobedient upon the sand.
Those who build upon the rock our Lord explains to be such as not only hear his message but are obedient thereto to the extent of their ability. Let us remember the words to which he refers—they are the words or message of the Sermon on the Mount, which show the things which are blessed of God in contradistinction to the things which would not have his approval. Those who do, who strive for, who to the best of their ability obey these divine teachings, the message from heaven, are laying the foundations which will be permanent, which will guarantee them against all the storms, difficulties and trials of the present life.
Those who hear the Master’s words and say, “Yea, Lord,” but who do not put the Master’s teachings into practice, are not built properly upon the rock of Truth, upon Christ. They are building their hope, their faith, their trust upon a foundation which will not stand. When the adversities of life come upon such their hopes will be undermined, their faith will collapse. Thus does the Lord teach us that it is not merely to know his will, to be doctrinally informed, but that he is looking for such character development in us as will bring us into full harmony with his teachings, into heart harmony, and, to the extent that we are able, to obedience in all the affairs of life. The other, whose faith is built upon knowledge without obedience, without growth in grace, will not be accepted to the Kingdom, will not be members of the Bride class, will not be joint-heirs with God’s dear Son.
“THE FIRE OF THAT DAY”
In this lesson our Lord describes not only the trials and tests which come upon all Christians throughout this Gospel age, but especially the great test in the close of this age—in the “harvest” time. Here his figure is that of rain, floods, and winds beating upon the faith structure of his professed followers, overthrowing the faith of those not properly constructed in accordance with his teachings, but unable to harm those founded on the rock of Truth. A mighty downpour of Truth throughout Christendom is in progress. The great storm is already raging. The various denominations are trembling under the shock. Their foundations on human tradition, creeds, theories, ignorance, superstition of the “dark ages,” are realized to be unsatisfactory. Ere long the storms of Truth will move the quicksand foundation upon which nominal Christendom is built, and her wreck will follow. Only the true people of God will be able to stand the great storm of “that day”—already beginning.
This is the same storm and flood mentioned by the Lord through the prophet Isaiah—”The hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding places … when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then shall ye be overthrown by it. From the time that it goeth forth it shall take you; for morning by morning shall it pass through, by day and by night: and it shall be a vexation only to understand the report [the message, the Truth].”—Isa. 28:17-19.
The same day of trial is pictured under another figure by the Apostle Paul when he says, “The fire of that day shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” He pictures true believers built upon the rock, the true foundation, but points out to us the necessity of having a proper house, or faith, as well as a proper foundation. He pictures one faith structure built of wood, hay, stubble, combustible materials, which will shortly be destroyed in this day when the fire of divine judgment shall test every doctrine and destroy every error. He pictures also the proper building constructed of gold, silver and precious stones, the divine promises, and how these will stand every test.
The lesson as a whole is, first, that we must be on the rock foundation to have either part or lot in the matter—to be able to stand any test; second, that of those upon the rock, trusting in Christ, loyal to him and his atonement work, there will be two classes—the “little flock,” faithful to the Word and upheld by it and protected, and the “great company,” not sufficiently diligent and careful respecting the divine promises, and who will have a faith structure largely composed of error, which will be consumed. Respecting this latter class the Apostle declares, “the same shall be saved, yet so as by fire.” This fitly describes the deliverance of the great company, who will “come up through great tribulation and wash their robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb.”—1 Cor. 3:12,15; Rev. 7:14.
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“DOERS OF THE WORD”
Our golden text is well chosen—”Be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only.” To be honored with a knowledge of the divine will and plan is a great boon, a great blessing; but it brings a great responsibility: “to whom much is given of him shall much be required.” We who have heard the voice of him that speaketh from heaven, speaking peace through Jesus Christ; we who, on the strength of this message of forgiveness of sins, have been accepted in consecration as members of the body of Christ, we have greater responsibility than have others. To attain the glorious things to which we have been invited we must not merely have this honor but must make use of the privilege and show our appreciation by obedience to the terms of the Covenant—presenting our bodies as living sacrifices to the divine service, in faithful obedience to righteousness, and in endeavoring to assist others in the same course.