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GREAT CAUSE FOR THANKSGIVING
A DISCOURSE BY THE EDITOR, AT BIBLE HOUSE CHAPEL, ALLEGHENY, PA.
“Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.”—Col. 1:12,13
A day of formal national thanksgiving to God for peace and plenty, for bountiful harvests, abundant rains and smiling skies, and for general national health and security, has just passed, and the occasion naturally leads those who are only aliens and foreigners here to consider, What have we to be thankful for? and how deep does the spirit of thankfulness penetrate our hearts?
The above language of the Apostle calls forcibly to mind our wonderful favors over and above all those that call for the general rejoicing and thanksgiving. While as aliens and foreigners, as pilgrims and strangers sojourning in the most enlightened and civilized lands of the earth, we are blessed with a large measure of temporal prosperity, we are specially favored, first, in that we have been delivered from the power of darkness; secondly, in that we have been translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son; and thirdly, in that we have been made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.
Sometimes, when opportunities for comparison of circumstances are lacking, or those less favored in life do not come closely under our observation, we fail to rightly appreciate the common temporal blessings that fill our daily pathway. If the humblest in this favored land could form an idea of the gloom and want and degradation of millions of their fellow men abroad, they would indeed see much cause for rejoicing over their richer inheritance. There are the poverty-stricken, ignorant, starving millions of Russia, the hunted and persecuted Jews, the benighted sons of Africa, China, India, the toiling exiles of Siberia and the poor of Palestine and Egypt, to whom the humblest little American home would be a great luxury. Let us not forget to thank God that the lines of his providence have fallen to us in such pleasant places—that civilized ideas have scattered the dense darkness of the ages past, that we are permitted to live in a land of liberty, of education and of general enlightenment. What a blessing it is to be relieved from the superstitions which retard the progress of so many of our fellow-men from advancement in civilization; and how great are the temporal advantages arising from progressive ideas, general education and personal liberty: advantages of peaceful home and family life, of comfortable dwellings and neat and convenient furnishings, of medical skill, of commercial enterprise, of religious freedom, of a free press and an open Bible. What inestimable privileges are these. And yet we who enjoy them are only a minority
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of our common humanity. Thousands, if they had the means in their hands, would not know how to make life comfortable. The Mohammedan, for instance, marries several wives, and shelters them all with their families in one room, and often with a brother or a father and his several wives; and he feels at liberty to abuse them as he pleases, while the poor slaves know no other alternative.
Let us appreciate these temporal favors more and more, and use them to the greater honor of God. And while we realize the inability of our own efforts to lift the pall of darkness, ignorance and superstition from the rest of the world, let us rejoice in the near approach of the kingdom of light and peace, and the rising of the Sun of Righteousness, which in due time will scatter all the gloom. And let us further consider that our present vantage ground is not ours because God is a respecter of persons, but
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because he is thereby preparing us to have part in his great plan for blessing all the families of the earth. As he prepared an Eden, like an oasis in the great world-desert, to be a suitable place for the trial of Adam and Eve, so he has prepared certain places and conditions for the development and discipline of his Church: not an Eden, however, but a place and station where civilized conditions exist, and where the general enlightenment may be used for either good or ill, and thus the choice of the individual be made manifest.
These temporal advantages are our general favors; but let us consider the special favors granted us over and above these, first, in being delivered from the power of darkness and translated therefrom into the kingdom of God’s dear Son.
The power of darkness is the power of ignorance, superstition, sin and death—the power of Satan, who works in darkness. From this kingdom of darkness we have been graciously translated, lifted over, into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. While yet we sat in darkness the message came to us that the price of our redemption had been paid, and that, if we had faith in the message and desired deliverance, we could be at once translated into the kingdom of light and peace—the kingdom of God’s dear Son. Gladly we heard the message and gladly we accepted the free favor thus offered; and, as a reward of our faith, came the sweet peace of God into our hearts. The first new ray of light admitted was followed by more and more; and the darkness of ignorance of God and his ways, and of superstition and error, began to flee away, and the soul was flooded with light and joy and a peace that surpassed all understanding to the hitherto darkened soul. Great was our joy when we first realized this blessed change, when we were told that now we were the children of light, and were counseled to walk thenceforth as children of the light.
As children of light and subjects of Christ, our Redeemer and King, we have been walking from day to day and from year to year in the light of his countenance and of his Word, going on from knowledge to knowledge and from grace to grace. The old errors of ignorance and superstition have been gradually replaced with truth and an intelligent faith in the pure Word of God. And daily, as we are enlightened by the truth, we endeavor to bring ourselves into fuller subjection to our King; and thus, having been delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, our precious Redeemer, we grow more and more fully into the divine likeness and favor.
But in addition to all this favor we are further informed of our privilege to become partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light, which inheritance is that of joint-heirship with Christ in his kingdom and glory, when in due time his kingdom shall be established in all the earth, and also to be made with him partakers of the divine nature. For such a position we naturally feel our unworthiness; for what are we, or what good thing have we done, to make us worthy of such an inheritance. We look at the pit whence we were digged, and then at our present imperfection as measured by the standard of God’s righteous and perfect law, and doubtfully say, That call must have been a mistake: it surely was never meant for me. Yet the heart bounds with joy at the first suggestion of such a favor, and when trembling faith is reassured by the statement that God
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hath made us meet for that inheritance, and that “Faithful is he that hath called us, who also will do it,” we take courage and reckon ourselves henceforth as heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ.
By nature, or of our own selves, we know that we are not meet for that inheritance. Our sufficiency is in Christ, whose merit, applied to us through faith in his blood, makes up all our deficiency, while we earnestly strive to conform to the divine will. Thus we are now reckoned of God as meet for the glorious inheritance with Christ, until in due time our actual fitness shall appear, when, having fully submitted ourselves to the guidance and discipline of Christ our King, he will present us to himself a glorious church without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.—Eph. 5:27.
Such, dear faithful ones in Christ, is our occasion for thanksgiving. Shall we set apart a special day in which to render praise and thanks to God for such unmeasured favor? Or, rather, shall we not set apart every day as a day for the expression, in deeds as well as in words, of our hearty thanksgiving to God for all his multiplied favors to us. Thanks be to God for preparing our way before us in a land where, though we are merely aliens and foreigners, we have such inestimable privileges and advantages for growing in knowledge and in grace, and for advancing the cause of truth; and thanks be to him for delivering us out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light and peace, and calling us to be the bride of Christ and joint-heirs of all things with his dear Son.
In the few succeeding verses the Apostle endeavors to convey to our minds some idea of the glory of our inheritance in becoming the bride of the Son of God, saying, “He is the image of the [to us] invisible God, the first born of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or powers: all things were created by him and for him. And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”
What a glorious Bridegroom! truly the chiefest among ten thousand, the one altogether lovely, and the heir of all things; for by him and for him were all things created. And all things are ours also, if we are Christ’s—all dominions and principalities, all power and wisdom and might and glory and honor and blessing. And he is able “to present you holy and unblamable and unreprovable in his sight, if ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard.”—Ver. 22,23.
— December, 1891 —