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VOL. XVIII. FEBRUARY 15, 1897. No. 4.
Views from the Watch Tower…………………… 47
Misfit Ethics…………………………… 47
Wounded by Professed Friends……………… 48
Brother Moody’s Alarm…………………… 50
Modern Exegesis………………………… 50
The Undefiled One…………………………… 52
The First Christian Martyr…………………… 55
Persecution Overruled for Good……………… 57
The Ethiopian Convert……………………… 58
Letters of Interest………………………… 60
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THE GERMAN WATCH TOWER
OUR German friends express their joy at the prospect of having even a small monthly publication devoted to the spread of the truth amongst readers of German. Promises have been made of large subscriptions for gratuitous circulation. Accordingly we have made a very moderate scale of prices, as follows—
America. Germany. Switzerland.
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Those of the interested who by reason of accident or infirmity are unable to pay will be supplied free upon application. We believe that divine providence is guiding in the undertaking, and will proceed with it shortly. Let us hear from all who favor it at once.
A TRACT FOR HEBREWS
We have calls for a tract for Hebrews—to help honest Israelites to find the Lord, Redeemer and Messiah. We would like to hear from all who consider that there is an opening for such a tract; how many they could judiciously use and in what language it would best serve its purposes—English, German, Polish or Jargon.
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VIEWS FROM THE WATCH TOWER.
ETHICS OF SAINTS MISFITS ON WORLDLINGS
We are living in a day when history is being made as never before. Before us lies an account from the Chicago Times-Herald, stating that at a meeting of the Chicago City Federation, recently, the secretary of the Bureau of the Associated Charities of that city declared that there are 8,000 families in Chicago actually starving to death; and that the President of the South Chicago Relief and Aid Society says, “There is greater poverty here than there was in 1893, for we are less able to care for the poor now than we were then.” The pastor of the First Congregational Church declares also that “at every turn one finds an object of misery. People crowd to our services and beg for food for their children. This is the hardest winter we have had. We can get no work for the men.”
Another account is from Louisiana, of which Congressman Boatman declares that there are one hundred thousand destitute people in the Northern part of that State on account of the failure of crops in that vicinity.
The London Chronicle sums up a total of eighty-four millions of the population of India affected by the famine, and says, “We are only at the beginning of the existing scarcity, which must now under any circumstances go on increasing until June next.” And the famine has recently been supplemented by the Bubonic plague, which is making terrible ravages.
Before us also are accounts of the now celebrated Bradley-Martin dress ball, at which about eight hundred of the elite of New York City, and indeed contingents from various parts of the world were present in silks, satins, velvets and broadcloth—both men and women ablaze with jewels. The newspaper accounts tell us that this was the grandest affair of the kind ever witnessed on this continent; that the ladies and gentlemen who participated were dressed to represent kings, princes, queens and noble ladies of the 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, and that the entertainment as a whole cost $223,000.
The Rev. Dr. Rainsford, in whose congregation are quite a number of millionaires, found it his duty to warn his hearers that it would be very unwise to attend this ball, giving as the reason that at the present time there are many people in New York city who are in very straitened circumstance and that such a display of luxury and extravagance would surely excite and strengthen the envy and hatred already felt by many of the poor against the wealthy and aristocratic. This started quite a hubbub, and the opinions of many of the prominent ministers were sought and published in the daily press. Some agreed with Dr. Rainsford; some were fearful to express an opinion if they had one; and some took an opposite view, claiming that the expenditure of the money would be a benefit to the poor, etc. The Rev. Thos. Dickson, Jr., was one of the most pronounced in his difference of view, declaring, according to the public press, “If I had millions, would I spend all in charity? No! Why, the position is nonsensical. If I had millions I would build a boat that could go around the world and would spend solid years of my life in rounding out my education. If I should have one million of dollars, and if the public should dictate to me how I should spend it, I would say as did a certain member of the Vanderbilt family, ‘The public be d__________d.'”
In these conflicting views respecting the responsibilities of wealth and the proper uses to be made of it, we perceive the grand confusion into which nominal Christianity has fallen, which unbalances its reason
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upon every subject. The continued failure in judgment upon such subjects arises from the fact that the Bible lays down certain lines and conditions of Christian responsibility which do not fit a merely nominal Christianity, hence the misfit in attempting to apply the terms and conditions of true cross-bearers to those who bear none other than diamond crosses—however polite, refined and educated the latter may be. Our opinion of those who patronize such extravagant displays is, that they are Christians merely in name—after the manner of the man who, when asked, Are you a Christian, sir? replied, “Well, I am not a Jew nor heathen; I presume, therefore, I must be a Christian.”
Let us learn to distinguish in our minds between nominal Christians and those who bear about in their person the marks of the Lord Jesus,—who are fully consecrated to him; whose will is to do the will of the Father in heaven, and to finish his work. Such being fully consecrated to the Lord will have neither time, nor influence, nor money to spend in such extravagant displays as this bal-masque. The restraining influence upon such will not be the point chiefly suggested by Dr. Rainsford—lest the display excite the cupidity and envy of the poor;—nor will it be merely to parsimoniously save money in the hand, where it will do no person very much good; but the object will be to spend the time and the means in some better channel, calculated to bring greater and more permanent blessings and happiness, both to others and to themselves.
But those who have this consecration of heart, whether they have much or whether they have little, need not feel envious of the rich; nor indeed should they seek or expect to force “the children of this world,” who are not actuated by the same motives of consecration to the Lord’s service and appreciation of divine things, present and future, to act as they act in such matters. Let the worldly who have wealth spend it in luxury, and in any manner not immoral. This will not only circulate the money amongst the people, better than if it were hoarded in banks, but it will help to manifest more clearly than ever the difference between the consecrated and unconsecrated condition of heart and conduct of life, and thus it will make wider the breach between the true Church and the worldly class which falsely under deception of false teaching bears the name of Christ but is none of his.
WOUNDED IN THE HOUSE OF (PROFESSED) FRIENDS
Dr. Abbott, of the Plymouth pulpit, Brooklyn, continues to lead along the paths of “higher criticism.” In some lectures on “The Bible Literature,” recently, he provoked his congregation to laughter by the amusing manner in which he made reference to the story of Jonah and the great fish, which he termed a “fiction,”—”the Pickwick papers of the Bible.” The worldly-minded newspaper reporters could see through the absurdity of a man pretending to be a Christian minister and yet thus making light of the very basis of Christian faith—the Bible. The reports in the New York papers put the matter in its true light, and in consequence the Manhattan Ministers’ Association took it up at its meeting and strongly rebuked the language. We
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are not to forget, however, that probably a large majority of the ministers in New York City, and in all large cities, are already in full agreement with Dr. Abbott along the lines of “higher criticism” and, so far as faith in the inspiration of the Bible is concerned, might be termed rationalists, agnostics or even infidels: there are good reasons for such convictions. We must therefore suppose that the Manhattan Ministers Association were not so much in opposition to Dr. Abbott’s agnosticism, called “higher criticism,” as to the public statement of this agnosticism in Dr. Abbott’s mirthful vein. As a minister of this city once said to the writer, “It is very well for us ministers to study these subjects, but it is not prudent to tell them to the people.”
* * *
Dr. Abbott, noting the criticism, made two very significant remarks: (1) “No minister should criticize another minister in public;” and (2) “I have every reason to believe the Plymouth Church is an absolute unit in supporting its pastor.” The latter statement shows to what an extent this modern infidelity called “higher criticism” has already taken root and born fruit among the people, the “laity.” The former statement shows how ministerial etiquette is expected to intimidate and seal the lips of any disposed to obey the Word of the Lord and lift up their voice like a trumpet to show God’s people their sins and dangers. Only those who fear to offend God rather than men will escape this influence which the prophet declares will make the majority like “dumb dogs, they cannot bark”—Isa. 56:10,11.
Meantime, the Rev. J. H. Barrows, D.D., famed as the president of the Chicago Parliament of Religions, of similarly broad and indefinite ideas of the Bible and Christianity, is now lecturing in India, having for his topic, “The Harmony of Religions.” Surely, it is these people who have repudiated the Bible, and incidentally all of Christianity except civilization and refinement, who probably see no reason why they should not as truly fellowship the deluded believers in the creeds of the Orient, as that they should fellowship those of us whom they believe to be the deluded believers in the Bible.
* * *
Another bold man who denies the faith and is yet “worse than an infidel” in that he still masquerades
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as a minister of the Gospel of Christ, while doing all in his power to undermine that gospel, is the Rev. M. J. Savage, pastor of the “Church of the Messiah,” New York City. One would think that few except those “of the synagogue of Satan” (Rev. 2:9) would enjoy or support such preaching. From his recent sermon, as reported in the New York Sun we clip the following malodorous morsel as a sample. He said:—
“Archaeology has established that man has been on earth not for a thousand years or ten thousand, but for at least two hundred thousand. Evolution, as developed by Herbert Spencer, and biology, the province worked out by Darwin, are no longer the subjects for debate by educated and intelligent people, though prominent theologians, who show that they don’t know what they are talking about by the first words that they utter, will discuss it. Man was not created in the garden of Eden or anywhere else, but began in the ooze of far-off primeval seas. What we know, then, means that there has never been any fall of man, but a continuous ascent. This one fact compels the complete reconstruction of all the theological theories of the past.”
It is time that all who have faith in the Word of God and its message of a fall and a redemption by our Savior’s precious blood should be no less outspoken than are the enemies of the truth. Whoever denies the fall into sin, denies the redemption from sin and its penalty and such are no more Christians than are Hottentots or Mohammedans or other unbelievers.
We pointed out in 1879, in this journal, that the great “falling away” from the faith predicted of the close of this age would come along this line;—the denial of the need and of the fact of the ransom. The cross of Christ (the great ransom-sacrifice) is to the Jew a stumbling block and to the Greeks (the worldly wise) foolishness, but to us who believe it is the power of God and the wisdom of God.—1 Cor. 1:18-24.
The true light, the true plan of God, is now clearly manifested for the succor of all who are truly his people. The true “sheep,” as they realize the confusion, will turn attentively and humbly to the great Shepherd to listen to his voice to guide them. Such only will be guided and kept in his way, led to the green pastures and still waters of present truth. These will be delivered from the great delusions of this evil day, which, if it were possible, would deceive the very elect. All others we may expect will be more or less deluded or blinded. Only a remnant will escape the blinding influence now as in the end of the Jewish age.
Along the same lines of “union” with anything and everything that will help to support our present social arrangement is a prominent article in the New York Evangelist which after giving a number of reasons for federation and cooperation among Protestants includes also Roman Catholics, and urges peace and fraternity with them, saying:—
“We differ from them in some points, but we cannot deny that they hold the main truths of our religion. [It is, alas! too true that Protestants hold still to many of Papacy’s perversions of the truth.—EDITOR.] … There is another reason why we should have a care how we disparage the Catholic priests, namely, that some day, not so far off in the next century, we may have to call upon them for help against political and social dangers. The late Professor Roswell D. Hitchcock has often said to me that the time might come when the Roman Catholic Church would prove the greatest bulwark and safeguard against the Socialism and Communism which have been imported into our country from abroad. That is what all Europe is afraid of at this moment—a cataclysm, not from above, but from beneath: an earthquake that will yawn so wide and so deep as to swallow up civilization itself. If such destruction sweeps over the Old World, it will not be long in crossing the ocean to the New. Let us be on our guard that we do not break down any strong barrier against it.”
Thus we see how one error leads to another, and helps still further to blind and prejudice the mind. How many Protestants there are who are totally unable to see in the Papal system the fulfilment of the prophesied Antichrist,—the result of the great “falling away” from the faith; because, having unscriptural views of the present social economy, they are drawn toward Papacy or anything else which will help to sustain the social structure with which all that they have and are is intimately associated;—their spiritual interests, the nominal Church institutions and their temporal interests. Can we wonder that under the lead of “higher criticism” and under the pressure of the supposed necessity for the continuance of the present social order, the majority of the nominal Church are drifting further and further away from the Bible and from its teachings—respecting Romanism as Antichrist; respecting the Babylon-confusion of sectarianism; respecting the social change to be inaugurated by the fall of present institutions and the erection in their stead and upon their ruins of the Kingdom of God’s dear Son? We cannot wonder at the tendency to fall away from “the faith once delivered to the saints.” We find a general tendency to lose faith in the Bible and to rely upon human wisdom and the light of conscience merely, except among those who in some manner or degree are looking for the second coming of Christ and the establishment of his Kingdom.
* * *
A Federation of Churches and Christian Workers has been formed in New York City, including educational and charitable institutions. The New York Journal says, “One hundred and forty churches and eleven such institutions are now included in the membership, and it is expected that the number will be doubled this winter.”
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BROTHER MOODY SOUNDS AN ALARM
The New York Independent publishes a lengthy account of what is termed the progress of Christianity during the past year, which makes an extremely favorable showing so far as denominationalism is concerned; but all familiar with such matters know that such reports are quite unreliable, that the lists of nearly every congregation contain names of many who are dead physically and of many others who have departed from all spiritual life and interest and who have not attended meetings for years.
Evangelist D. L. Moody has been looking over the reports of last year, and as a result sent in the following to the editor of the Independent:—
“In a recent issue of your paper I saw an article from a contributor which stated that there were over three thousand churches in the Congregational and Presbyterian bodies of this country that did not report a single member added by profession of faith last year.
Can this be true? The thought has taken such hold of me that I can’t get it out of my mind. It is enough almost to send a thrill of horror through the soul of every true Christian.
“If this is the case with these two large denominations, what must be the condition of the others also? Are we all going to sit still and let this thing continue? Shall our religious newspapers and our pulpits keep
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their mouths closed like ‘dumb dogs that cannot bark’ to warn people of approaching danger? Should we not lift up our voice like a trumpet about this matter? What must the Son of God think of such a result of our labor as this? What must an unbelieving world think about a Christianity that cannot bring forth any more fruit? And have we no care for the multitude of souls going down to perdition every year while we all sit and look on? And this country of ours, where will it be in the next ten years, if we don’t awake out of sleep?
“I wish some of you editors of the influential papers, who are in close touch with the ministers and churches, would tell us what the matter is. Is this the result of what they call the ‘Modern Criticism’ of the Bible? Is this a specimen of the better times, when we get rid of the old stories about Moses writing the Pentateuch, and the sun and moon standing still, and the fish swallowing Jonah? How much of all this is owing to the politics our ministers have been preaching lately, and the talks on the labor question, and the stereopticon shows on Sunday evenings, and all these other things that have been driving out the blessed gospel of Jesus Christ? When ministers go into preludes on current topics, how can they expect any afterludes of conversions?”
Bro. Moody gives evidence of being awake to the real situation; but all the more, his expressions are thorny to the average minister and Church member, and many are crying out against him. Like some of old they say, “Prophesy unto us good things!” or “Let us alone!”
“MODERN EXEGESIS” OR “HIGHER CRITICISM”
It would appear that the theological colleges are becoming the very hot-beds of unbelief and repudiation of the Scriptures, under what is termed “modern exegesis” and “higher criticism.” Professor S. I. Curtis, of the Congregational Seminary of Chicago, is the latest who has made himself a name and fame by some published articles in which he endeavors to refute the application of the so-called Messianic prophecies to Christ;—thus repudiating the interpretations of those prophecies given by our Lord and the apostles as recorded in the New Testament. Professor Curtis simply gives the Jewish interpretation of these prophecies; namely, that they referred to God’s dealings with the nation of Israel. The Interior (Presbyterian), criticising Professor Curtis and defending the interpretations of prophecy given us by our Lord and the apostles, says:—
“The situation then is this: It is admitted by this new school of scholarship that the New Testament writers were all of the ‘old school of exegetes,’ that they all gave the weight of their authority to the exegesis which finds in the Old Testament specific, particular and personal descriptions of our Lord, his deity, his birth, history, sufferings, death and the divine purpose in his incarnation and vicarious sacrifice—and that the authority of our Lord and of the New Testament writers, in affirming this fact, has universally prevailed for nearly 1,900 years, but is now set aside as ‘not in accordance with modern views.’
“They admit that what they denominate the ‘old school of exegetes’ included our Lord himself and his evangelists and apostles. But they say this exegesis did not originate with our Lord and the writers of the Gospels who found it prevailing among the Jews of their times, and were not able to free themselves from it. Besides, it was to the interest of our Lord and of the New Testament writers to employ the false exegesis which they found in the public mind.
“Thus are the Scriptures plowed, harrowed and sown with the salt of perpetual desolation. But let us remember that salt-plains and bitter waters are found only in arid lands. Where the rains fall and the white snows drift there are none. The showers of spiritual blessing, falling upon the church of God, dissolve and wash away these alkaline destroyers of spiritual life, and leave her fountains of water pure, her trees laden with fruit, and her vales waving with corn.”
We are glad to see that the Bible has still some friends in the nominal church and that higher criticism has not perverted the judgments of all.
* * *
Since the so-called higher criticism of the Bible began in Germany, it is interesting to notice its progress there. Reliable authorities inform us that, “In all the faculties of the twenty Protestant Theological Universities of Germany, there is not a single representative of the ‘older views’ and traditional teachings of
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the Church, in reference to the Mosaic origin of the Pentateuch, the integrity of the book of Isaiah, etc.”
Professor Zockler of Griefswald is an acknowledged authority upon this subject. In a recent article in German he expresses himself about as follows:—
The Old Testament criticism is raging now with more intensity than ever before. The contending parties are the liberal or advanced and the conservative. The differences between these two schools of thought have as a consequence become sharply defined, and in some cases quite bitter, and the interest in the struggle is widening. Outsiders also are beginning to appreciate the fact that great issues are at stake; that the new views practically remove from the sacred books of the Old Testament the basis of revealed religion, the historic faith-foundation upon which the Church has rested for more than eighteen centuries. The Church in general is realizing the destructive consequences of the critical teachings of the Wellhausen-Kuenen school of thought. What began as a controversy respecting the Pentateuch twenty years ago has now become a contest of radical criticism covering the entire Old Testament, and a question of principle for the life of the Church. The professor adds that the defendants of the “old views” are found in the ranks of the ministry only, and none of them amongst the university men.
* * *
Likewise the American college professors are leading in this attack upon the Scriptures. They seem to realize that they might live and die comparatively unknown, except as they may come into prominence by attacking the Bible. Professor Paul Haupt of Baltimore has begun a translation of the Bible in conjunction with certain other professors of this country and Europe.
These gentlemen make such bold statements that not only the world but modest and moderate humble-minded Christians are inclined to suppose that they must have found some very positive information upon which to rest such wonderful and positive claims. They even attempt to indicate when and which certain words, sentences and sometimes paragraphs were added, here and there, at various times and by various persons.
These gentlemen, of course, profess to be more wise as well as more honest than any who have ever undertaken such work before. Their edition of the Bible, they inform us, will be printed in various shades of color and thereby indicate different features of the text. Of course, the world is ready and waiting for any and every thing that would cast discredit upon the Book which has successfully withstood the assaults of its enemies for many centuries. Consequently, it is not surprising that the world-pleasing and success-seeking publishers of New York journals are very willing to advertise such works as these freely. Thus a New York Sunday paper of January 31st illustrates what the new Bible is to be, giving selections from Genesis, showing the coloring of the text as it will appear, heading the whole thus:—
“AMAZING DISCOVERIES CONCERNING THE BOOK OF
GENESIS. IT IS A PATCHWORK OF FOUR OR
FIVE WRITERS AND IS NOT THE FIRST
BOOK OF THE BIBLE”
Few of those who read the bald and brazen claims of these modern wise men and their advertisers have any conception of the character of the information possessed by these schoolmen, which authorized their division of Genesis and other Bible Books into “patchwork.” Have these gentlemen found the original manuscript of Genesis, and there seen the various additions they claim, in various styles of handwriting, some with more and some with less faded inks? Is it upon such evidences as these that they base their strong statements? No! They never saw the original manuscripts, nor has any one else now living seen them. Critics have access to nothing to which other men have not access to-day. Upon what, then, do they base their conclusions which they state with such positiveness? may be asked. We answer, They merely fancy that they notice a little change in the phraseology here and there. They find that certain words are used in one paragraph or section freely and that those words do not occur in another paragraph or at least are not so freely used. And on the strength of this flimsy foundation they decide, and declare with great positiveness, and unholy boldness, that the two paragraphs were written by different persons. They not only undertake to say about what time they were written, but presumably men of such keen discernment could almost tell what the men looked like who wrote the different passages.
The Scriptures do not declare that Moses was the author of the Book of Genesis in the sense that he wrote it of his own personal knowledge. It is to be presumed that since much of it was history, covering the two thousand years preceding Moses’ day, the record may have been kept and handed down from father to son, some of it from Adam and Seth and Enoch, Methuselah, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. All that
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is claimed for the Book of Genesis is, that Moses was its editor and that he as a servant of God was granted a superior wisdom and grace in bringing together into proper form, thus, the items of past history and of divine revelation which God designed for his people—”That the man of God might be thoroughly furnished.”
It is quite sufficient for those who have learned of the wisdom of God’s Book from its internal evidences and harmonies, to know that the records of Genesis
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are in complete harmony with the entire Word of God; and that it was one of the Books of the Scriptures at the time our Lord prayed, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy Word is truth;” that various of its items were referred to by our Lord and by all the inspired apostles, without the slightest suggestion that either the whole or part of it was unreliable or a “mere human patchwork.” Anyone who will compare the account of Creation as given in Genesis with any account of Creation given in any of the so-called sacred books of heathendom will be convinced that it is as far in advance of them all as the daylight is brighter than midnight. And we hold that the account of Creation in Genesis, rightly understood, is in full accord with all that science has been able to prove; although it disagrees with some things which science claims without a sufficiency of evidence. The harmony between the Bible account and the proved positions of science was shown in a series of articles by T. J. Conant which appeared in our issues of Jan. 1, Feb. 1, and Feb. 15, ’94.
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THE UNDEFILED ONE
“Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one.—Job 14:4.
THAT the preexistent Son of God “was made flesh and dwelt among us,” is clearly stated in the Scriptures (John 1:14); that he was “holy,” “undefiled,” and “separate from sinners,” is plainly stated (Heb. 7:26-28 and Luke 1:35); and that he knew no sin, while all other men are sinners, is also stated. (2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 5:18,19; and 1 Pet. 2:22.) The Apostle’s argument, that he was able to, and did, give himself a ransom or corresponding price for the forfeited life and right of Adam (Rom. 5:17-19; 1 Tim. 2:6), proves the same, because the first Adam was perfect until he sinned; hence one who could give a corresponding price or ransom must have been likewise perfect, without sin and free from its condemnation. The same thought is logically deduced from the statement that Jesus fulfilled all the requirements of the Law (Matt. 5:17; John 8:46); for we know that the Law of God was the full measure of a perfect man’s ability. Hence the conclusion is irresistible that he must have been a perfect man when able to do what no imperfect man had done or could do.—Psa. 49:7; Heb. 1:3; 4:15; 9:28; 10:5-10; Isa. 53:9-12; John 1:29; 1 Pet. 1:19.
But notwithstanding the mass of Bible testimony as to his human perfection, some inquire, Can the possibility of this be scientifically shown? Others assert that it is an impossibility, and that the laws of nature are in direct opposition. They give unbounded weight to their imperfect understanding of nature’s laws, and lightly cast aside the weight of Bible testimony.
The question, however, is well worthy of an examination from a scientific as well as from a Scriptural standpoint, in order that the agreement of science and Scripture may be clearly seen. Science and Scripture always agree when properly understood. There is no law against our seeking evidence from every good source, but only egotism, or blindness, or both, will exalt human reasonings above the divine testimony.
We raise the query then: How came it that “the man Christ Jesus” was perfect, holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, while his mother was imperfect; a partaker of the weaknesses of the fallen and condemned race?—Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?
Seeking to answer this query, the Church of Rome promulgated the doctrine of the “Immaculate Conception:” not the doctrine that Jesus was miraculously conceived by the holy power of God, as recorded by the Evangelists, and hence was immaculate or spotless; but that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was miraculously conceived, and hence that she was pure, holy and free from Adamic sin and imperfection. But the originators of this doctrine could not have been far-seeing, or they would have known that by the same reasoning it must be proved that Mary’s mother was of immaculate conception, and so all the way back to Eve, “the mother of all living,” whose fall into sin before she bore any children is clearly stated in the Scriptures.—See Gen. 3 and 1 Tim. 2:14.
However, this subject is perfectly clear and plain now, from a scientific as well as from a Bible standpoint.
The Scriptures hold out the thought that all EXISTENCE, LIVING ENERGY, OR BEING, comes from the father and not from the mother. The mother receives the sperm or seed of life from the father, furnishes it a cell-nucleus out of which a form or body is produced, and nourishes the germ of being until it is able to maintain an independent existence; i.e., until it is able to appropriate to its maintenance the life-sustaining elements which the earth and air supply—then it is born.
The word father has the significance of life-giver. Accordingly, God was the “FATHER,” or life-giver, while the earth was the mother of Adam, and hence of the human race. (Luke 3:38.) Adam’s form or organism was of and from earth (which therefore served as a mother); but his spark of life which constituted
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him a man came from God (who thus was his Father or life-giver): and in the male has since resided the power to communicate that spark of life or living seed to progeny.
In harmony with this principle, all children are spoken of as being of or from their fathers, and borne by their mothers. (Gen. 24:47.) Thus the children of Jacob, counted through his sons, were seventy when he came down to Egypt. (But if Jacob or the twelve patriarchs had daughters, which we cannot doubt, the children of those daughters were not counted as Jacob’s children; such children were counted to their own fathers.) All of those seventy souls or beings are expressly said to have come out of the loins of Jacob. (Gen. 46:26,27, and Exod. 1:5.) So of Solomon it is said, that he came out of the loins of David. (1 Kings 8:19, and 2 Chron. 6:9.) So also the Apostle Paul and Israelites in general claimed that they all came out of the loins of Abraham; and of Levi it is written that “he was yet in the loins of his father when Melchisedec met him.”—Heb. 7:5,10.
Thus also the whole race was in and sprang from Adam their father, but not from Eve. And thus it is written that all in ADAM die, but not all in Eve. Because the race came of Adam, it was tried in his trial, condemned in his failure and included under his sentence.
This, which the Scriptures teach, is the latest deduction of science on this subject of Progeneration, as applied to humanity and to all mammalia. Scientists find abundant and conclusive proof in nature that life or being comes always from the male. The simplest form of illustration is a hen’s egg; Of itself it originally contains no life; but is merely a cell-germ ready to produce an organism as soon as vivified or fecundated or impregnated with the life-germ or life-seed by the male bird.
The egg contains not only the germ-cell but also the proper elements of nutrition and in proper proportion, adapted to the minute organism begotten in it by the sperm or life seed; and under proper conditions that organism develops. The yolk becomes wholly absorbed into the body, while the clear liquid albumen serves as its later nourishment until it breaks the shell and is able to sustain itself by appropriating cruder elements of nutrition. The principles here involved are the same in human and other animals.
In view of these harmonious testimonies of the Bible and science, it is a reasonable deduction that if the father were perfect, the child would be so. Under even moderately favorable conditions a perfect sperm or life-seed in uniting with the female germ-cell would produce a living germ so vigorous and healthy as to be capable of appropriating the proper elements of nutrition and avoiding, throwing off or neutralizing the unfit; and thus would develop a perfect being; continually throwing off without self-injury, through its perfect functions, all elements not beneficial. On the contrary, if the sperm or life-seed be imperfect, the living germ will be proportionately weak and unable to overcome the unfavorable conditions of its environment, it will appropriate whatever its mother furnishes—good or bad—and will be the prey of disease. Being imperfect, it will be unable to reject wholly the poisonous elements of disease.
This is on the same principle that if two persons eat of strong food, the one with good digestive powers can appropriate its nutriment and pass off its unwholesome qualities, while the other with weak digestion could appropriate little nutriment from the same food and would be injured by its evil qualities.
It follows, then, that had mother Eve alone sinned, the race would not have died. Had Adam remained perfect, his life unforfeited and unimpaired, his offspring would have been the same. And even had death sentence passed upon mother Eve, bringing imperfections, these would not have impaired her offspring; being perfect, they would have appropriated good elements and have passed off naturally any unwholesome elements without injury.
On the other hand, suppose that Adam had sinned and Eve had remained sinless, Adam’s condemnation and death would have affected the entire posterity just the same; however perfect the germ-cells and nourishment provided by mother Eve, only imperfect dying beings could be produced from diseased sperm of life-seed from Adam. Hence the appropriateness of the Scriptural statement that “All in Adam die,” and “By one man’s disobedience … death passed upon all.” (1 Cor. 15:22; Rom. 5:12,19.) How wonderful the correspondence here between the first and second Adams and their brides. As the death of the race depended not upon Eve but wholly upon Adam, and yet she shared in the bringing of it, so the restored life of the race redeemed depends not at all upon the bride of Christ, but upon Jesus, though by divine favor it is arranged that his bride shall share in the restitution of “that which was lost.”
The fountain, Adam, having become contaminated by sin and death, none of his posterity can be free from contamination; for, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one.” The reference here must be understood as applying to the man, and not to the woman: none coming from or out of the contaminated fountain can be clean. Hence, “There is none righteous, no, not one;” none can redeem his own life, nor give to God a ransom for his brother.—Rom. 3:10; Psa. 49:7.
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It follows, then, that the only obstacle to the generation of a perfect man is the lack of a perfect father to give a perfect life-sperm; and hence the teaching of Scripture, that in the case of Jesus a perfect life-sperm (not of or from the Adamic fountain) was transferred by divine power from a preexistent condition to the embryo human condition, was born “holy” (pure and perfect), though of an imperfect mother (Luke 1:35): That he was uncontaminated with any imperfection—mental, moral or physical—which his mother in common with the entire human race shared, is entirely reasonable and, as we have just seen, in perfect accord not only with Scripture but also with the latest scientific findings and deductions.
Another fact which scientists are demonstrating to themselves, which seems to concur with Scripture testimony, is, that though life or being comes from the father, form and nature come from the mother. The scientific proofs of this are more abstruse and less easily grasped by the ordinary mind; and this, because in wisdom God has not only separated the various kinds, or natures, but in great measure has limited them, so that they cannot mix or blend beyond certain limits without losing all fecundity. A common illustration of this is the mule.
The old idea that form and nature came from the male is abandoned by modern students of nature, who now agree that the female furnishes organism as well as sustenance—in fact all except the life-seed or sperm, which comes from the father or life-giver. Take as a Scriptural illustration of the foregoing claims, the improper union between “the daughters of men” and those angels which kept not their proper estate or condition. (Gen. 6:2,4; Jude 6; 2 Pet. 2:4.) The angels, when they assumed human form being perfect in vitality begat children far superior to the then greatly fallen race of Adam in mental acumen as well as in physical powers, so that the record is—”the same were men of renown.” These wonderful men, let us remember, were born of imperfect, dying mothers, but were begotten by vigorous, unimpaired fathers.
The dying race of Adam would have had hard masters in those superior Nephilim (Hebrew, fallen ones) which had not been recognized by God either by a trial for life, nor by a condemnation to death. It was a mercy indeed which, not having authorized their existence, blotted them from existence in the flood and spared only Noah and his family with the comment—”Now Noah was perfect in his generation,” which almost implies that the remainder of Adam’s race had become more or less a new race by association with the angels in human form and powers. We say a new race because of their new life and vigor coming from new fathers.
So great was the renown of these “Nephilim,” that it is to be found with more or less distinctness in heathen mythologies to this day, and hundreds of years after their destruction in the flood, the false report that some of these were yet alive caused a panic among the Israelites while flushed with the victory of recent battles. (See Num. 13:33; 14:36,37.) No doubt there were some large men in Canaan, as other Scriptures show, but never except in this “evil report” are they called Nephilim.—See our issue of July 15, ’94, “Sons of God and Daughters of Men.”
Another illustration of this principle that life comes from the father and nature from the mother is found in the fact that Jehovah, himself of the divine nature, has begotten sons of various natures. He is the father or life-giver of those of the angelic nature (Job 2:1; 38:7; Heb. 2:9), and of the human nature (Luke 3:38), as well as of the “new creatures” who shall be made partakers of his own divine nature. (2 Pet. 1:4.) The spirit or energy of Jehovah operating upon spirit-substances produced and developed angels; operating upon earthly substances (Gen. 2:7; 1 Cor. 15:47), man was produced. And when he would give us a clear conception of the generation of the new creatures to the divine nature, he represents them as begotten of his word of promise in the womb of the Covenant which he made with Abraham, which he symbolized by a woman, Sarah, telling us that as Isaac was the heir of Abraham and child of promise (by Sarah), so we, as or like Isaac, are children of God, being children of the promise, or Sarah covenant.—See Gal. 4:23-31; 1 Pet. 1:3,23; 2 Pet. 1:4.
The same principle is illustrated in the fact that in the typical Jewish dispensation, prior to the Christian age, a child inherited blessings and privileges of its father, according to the favor and standing of its mother, thus again declaring that the mother’s nature, rights, privileges and liberties attached to the child, though not of necessity the father’s.—See Gen. 21:10; Ex. 21:4; Gal. 4:30.
The foregoing arguments are clinched by the fact that our Lord Jesus was born of a woman. The “holy thing” born of a woman partook of the woman’s nature, i.e., human nature—”of the earth earthy.” Though retaining all the purity and perfection of the preexistent (spirit) state, the transferred germ of being (in harmony with this law we are examining) partook of the nature of the mother and was “made flesh” by being “born of a woman.” Yet the “clean thing” came not out of the unclean race, but “proceeded forth and came from God” and was merely developed and nourished in Mary.
It is yet further in harmony with this same principle that though Christ has been highly exalted to the divine nature, and is no longer human, yet it is declared
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of him that he shall be the life-giver or “father” of the whole human race, while it is also shown that his work for the race is to restore the perfection of human nature, which was lost for all through Adam’s sin. Thus, while their “father” or life-giver will be on the divine plane, the children will be on the human plane, born out of a covenant of restitution, illustrated by Keturah, Abraham’s third wife.
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THE FIRST CHRISTIAN MARTYR
—FEB. 21.—ACTS 6:8-15; 7:54-60.—
“Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”—Rev. 2:10.
APPARENTLY Stephen’s martyrdom occurred not a great while after Pentecost, but the interim had been a period of considerable progress. At the time of the ascension “about one hundred and twenty” were reckoned as being in full and deep fellowship in Christ; ten days later at Pentecost three thousand converts were added; shortly after five thousand more as recorded in our last lesson; later (Acts 5:14) “multitudes, both men and women, were added to the Lord;” still later, “the number of the disciples was multiplied in Jerusalem greatly, and a great multitude of priests were obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6:1-7.) This period of gathering the ripe wheat and establishing them in the doctrines of Christ was a very necessary prelude to the period of trial, persecution and suffering which shortly followed. The persecution, however, was no less a divine mercy than the previous peace and prosperity: the divine rule for the Gospel Church evidently is that each member shall be “made perfect through suffering.” The stoning of Stephen was merely the beginning of the general persecution which in one form or another has continued ever since, and must continue until the last members of the body of Christ shall have proven themselves faithful even unto death and been accounted worthy of the crown of life mentioned in our golden text.
Stephen, it will be remembered, was chosen as one of the assistants of the apostles and was known as a deacon—minister or servant—the original intention being that the service should be chiefly with reference to the temporal interests of the Church. His choice would indicate that he was considered at the time a man of ability, and that faithfulness to the work entrusted to him led on to still greater privileges and opportunities for service. Accordingly we find him in this lesson ministering spiritual things with imbuement of the spirit and ability closely approaching that of the apostles. He was full of faith and power, says our common version, and no doubt truly, but the oldest manuscripts render this “full of grace and power.” Both were true, because he could not have had the grace and the power without the faith. “This is the victory which overcometh the world, even your faith.” In Stephen’s case the faith working by love had produced zeal for the Lord and his cause; and the faith and zeal blended with the spirit of holiness gave Stephen extraordinary grace and power, as pointed out in verse 8. And the same combination will produce like grace and power in all of the Lord’s people in proportion as these elements of character are found in each.
Tradition has it that Stephen’s ability as a speaker (verses 9,10) brought him into special prominence and that as a religious logician he met with the learned men of his time, amongst whom it is said Saul of Tarsus was one. The Jews, while in a general sense one in religious matters, were nevertheless broken up into various little cliques and schools of thought, much after the manner of the denominations of Christendom today. The classes here mentioned as disputants with Stephen are supposed to have represented the advanced philosophies of that day, combined with Judaism; but all of their philosophy could not cope with the wisdom and spirit of the truth which were with Stephen. Naturally this led wicked hearts to envy, malice and hatred; for those who are not above all things lovers of the truth are always moved to more or less hatred when successfully opposed by the truth.
(11-14) Many have supposed that Stephen met his death at the hands of a mob. But this is incorrect. Those who were his enemies because unable to resist the force of his arguments had no authority to stone him, nor did they wish to appear before the people in the light of persecutors of their opponent. They therefore suborned or procured witnesses outside of their own cliques to bring charges against Stephen before the Sanhedrin and then while he was disputing with them the official representatives of the Sanhedrin came upon him and “caught him” and brought him before the council,—as though caught in the very act of blasphemy.
At the trial the witnesses testified falsely in the sense that they misrepresented the words and arguments of Stephen, putting them in a false light. There was, nevertheless, probably considerable truth in the charge that Stephen said that Jesus of Nazareth would destroy their city and change the customs of Moses. Had they confined themselves to a strict statement of the matter as Stephen represented it, they would not have been
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false witnesses; but, evidently anxious to serve those who employed them as witnesses, they exaggerated Stephen’s statements to the extent of misrepresentation of certain connecting facts and statements in his discourse.
(15) It is recorded that when the apostles, Peter and John, stood before a similar council, a short time previous, their judges marveled at their courage in view of the fact that they were unlearned men. So also Stephen was courageous. Notwithstanding the fact of his arrest, and that he was on trial, and that if found guilty the punishment would be death by stoning, according
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to the law, Stephen was not daunted. Instead of a look of fear and servility, or of anger, malice, hatred and defiance, the record is that they beheld his face “as it had been the face of an angel;”—a face beaming with love, kindness, interest in their welfare, desire to do them good, of purity and holiness of motive, combined with humble confidence in God and fearlessness of men. We believe that to a greater or less extent this is the case with all who receive the holy spirit, in proportion as they progress in the knowledge, faith, love, zeal and character of Christ their Lord. This change does not come instantaneously; it comes gradually. The spirit of the world places the marks of selfishness and hardness upon the countenances of all the slaves of sin, in proportion as they are faithful thereto. But when the spirit of the truth is received and these become freed from the slavery to sin and become the servants of righteousness, the result is a proportionate displacement of the marks of slavery upon the countenance and an illumination instead, which more and more approaches the angelic. Look the worldly man or woman in the face, and see how the cares and battles of and for sin have left their traces: look then into the faces of those who are fully and intelligently the Lord’s, and notice how the marks of care are superseded by a look of confidence and trust and peace proceeding from the hearty acceptance of their new Master’s spirit. And this illumination will be found most remarkable and conspicuous when such saints are actively engaged in telling the good tidings, and particularly when opposing the error.
Stephen’s discourse before the Sanhedrin (Acts 7:1-53) marks him as having been a man of great ability. It reads more like the language of the Apostle Paul than that of any other New Testament writer. And the Apostle Paul, then Saul of Tarsus, is supposed to have been one of his hearers, a member of the Sanhedrin.
The closing of Stephen’s address (verses 51-53) laid upon the Jewish people, and especially upon the Jewish Sanhedrin as the representatives of the religious law, the full responsibility for the death of the “Just One”—as his betrayers and murderers. This pointed application of Scripture and facts, as might have been expected, only aroused the evil hearts of the judges. Of those converted by Peter’s discourse it was said, “They were pricked to the heart;” but of these it is said, “They were cut to the hearts” by the words of truth—the evil of their natures was aroused to the full, they gnashed on him with their teeth—they were exceedingly incensed.
(55-58) Full of the holy spirit, Stephen was wholly unmoved by their manifestations of anger. He was testifying for God and for the truth, and instead of fear of man his heart was brought into the closer sympathy and union with the Lord. The Lord knew all about the termination of the trial and what the sentence would be, and no doubt gave Stephen a vision of heavenly glory—of the Father, and of Christ at the right hand of his majesty. This no doubt was for the strengthening of Stephen’s own faith for the martyrdom just at hand; and perhaps also intended to act as it did upon his unjust judges. His declaration of the vision which he saw capped the climax of their indignation, at his supposed opposition to God and to Moses and to themselves as representatives of the Law. They construed this to be additional blasphemy—that Jesus of Nazareth, whom they condemned as a blasphemer, and whose crucifixion they had procured, was acceptable to God; and not only so, but made next to the Father—at the right hand of God, or place of power and influence. Using this as a pretext, they terminated the trial and executed the sentence of stoning—stopping their ears as though they would thus say, what no doubt some of them actually felt, that such an exaltation of Jesus next to Jehovah, far above Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the prophets was gross blasphemy which they could not justify themselves in hearing and felt bound to resent by stoning the blasphemer.
According to the Law, those who heard the blasphemy did the stoning; and they laid their outer garments at the feet of Saul, which would seem to indicate that he not only consented to the verdict that Stephen was a blasphemer worthy of death, but that he was one of the leaders in the prosecution, as well as an influential man in the Sanhedrin.
(59-60) Without attempting to dissuade them from their course, Stephen offered up prayer to the Lord, and a beautiful prayer it was—not only for the preservation of his spirit, but also that the sin might not be laid to the charge of his murderers.
Thus he “fell asleep.” This testimony respecting Stephen is in full accord with the testimony of other Scriptures. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the prophets “slept” with their fathers in death; and the Apostle, after enumerating some of the faithful ones of the past (who were stoned, etc., in hope of a better resurrection),
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grouping them all together, says (Heb. 11:39,40), “These all … received not the promise; God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” They all are represented as sleeping and waiting for the morning—the resurrection morning—the Millennial morning—the morning of which the prophet David spoke, saying, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning;” the morning of which the prophet Job spoke, saying, “Hide me in the grave until thy wrath be past [the reign of death during the present age with all of its concomitants of sorrow, trouble and pain, are evidences of divine wrath]. Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands.” Our Lord, speaking of the resurrection morn, the same great day of awakening from the sleep of death, corroborates Job’s statement, saying, “All that are in the graves shall hear his voice and shall come forth.” (John 5:28,29.) Stephen slept with the others, but as one of the overcomers of the new dispensation he will have a share in the first resurrection (Rev. 20:6), and thus awake earlier in the morning than others not winners of the prize of the high calling of this Gospel age.—Psa. 46:5, margin.
The expression “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” signifies that Stephen understood that the spark of life, the spirit of life, was passing from his control; and by this expression he gave evidence of his faith in a future life, committing it wholly to the care of him who redeemed him from the power of the grave and who is shortly to deliver therefrom all who trust in him.
Stephen’s faithful witness unto death was followed in turn by that of many others likewise faithful unto death and heirs of crowns of life according to the promise. The beneficent influences of the gospel of Christ have since Stephen’s day so permeated the civilized world, and so affected it, that the followers of Christ are not at present in danger of being stoned to death for preaching his gospel. Nevertheless, the Apostle’s words still hold good, “All who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” It is still necessary to suffer with Christ, if we would be glorified with him and share his coming Kingdom. But the persecutions of to-day are more refined than in any previous period. The faithful to-day are not stoned with literal stones or shot with literal arrows or literally beheaded, but it is still true that the wicked shoot out arrows at the righteous, “even bitter words,” and many because of faithfulness are reproved and slandered and cut off from fellowship—beheaded for the testimony of Jesus. (Rev. 20:4.) Let all such emulate Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Let their testimonies be given with radiant faces like his. Let their eyes of faith perceive Jesus at the right hand of the majesty on high as their Advocate and Deliverer. Let their words be with moderation as were Stephen’s, and let it be true of them, as written of him, “full of grace and power” and “filled with the holy spirit.”
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PERSECUTION OVERRULED FOR GOOD
—FEB. 28.—ACTS 8:1-17.—
“They that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the Word.”—Acts 8:4.
THE tendency of the early believers, as we have seen, was to gather together—to swarm. This was evidently in harmony with the divine program, to foster and establish the Church in the religious capital of the world. Those first few years were evidently designed of the Lord to permit the Church to put on the armor of God, to grow from babes in Christ, by the use of the sincere milk of the Word, and afterward by its strong meat, up to the stature of Christian manhood;—thoroughly furnished unto every good word and work. This gathering at Jerusalem was in harmony with our Lord’s direction before his ascension, when, after instructing them to preach the gospel, he added “beginning at Jerusalem.” But now Jerusalem, having had its full period of favor, the Church having been rooted and established, the divine plan led on to a wider work; and the persecution which arose at the time of Stephen’s martyrdom became very general in the city of Jerusalem, and very grievous, and led to the flight of many of the faithful who, we are told, went
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everywhere—especially throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. The apostles no doubt considered it a part of duty that they should remain at Jerusalem as a kind of center of influence; partly because they had not yet fully learned the lesson that the gospel they preached, although to the Jew first, is also to the Greek and the whole world.
(3) Saul of Tarsus was an energetic man, on whichever side of a question he stood. When an opponent of the Lord Jesus and his Church and gospel, he was its most active enemy, and we cannot doubt that his activity in the matter was backed, as he himself afterward declared, by a “good conscience,” which believed that he “verily did God service” in opposing what he considered to be the sect of the Nazarene. God seems to be specially on the lookout for just such earnest characters, and they are far more certain to get the truth than are the cold, listless and indifferent kind
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who neither love nor hate either righteousness or sin. Peter and James and John were of this positive and strong character, and they with the Apostle Paul, consequently, were the ones most freely used by our Lord in conveying the blessings of the gospel to us and to the world.
(4-13) It will be noticed that in the primitive Church there was no such distinction of class as there is in the nominal church to-day. There was no division into clergy and laity, but they were “all one in Christ Jesus.” The division of the church into clergy and laity took place when the great falling away came, which developed into Papacy; and from that baneful influence many have not yet fully escaped. All of the early Church were preachers, and if persecuted they went everywhere preaching the Word. An instance is given respecting this preaching. One, Philip—not the Apostle—did successful work in a city of Samaria and was used of the Lord in casting out devils and healing the sick, the means then in use for drawing attention to the gospel. The results of his preaching were marvelous—even Simon the sorcerer became a believer.
Sorcery, witchcraft and enchantments of olden times were manifestations of Satan and demons for the delusion of mankind, and were strictly forbidden under the Mosaic law. The same evil spirits in more recent years have slightly altered the character of the demonstrations, and so-called Spiritualists are their “mediums.” The change is merely made in conformity to the changed conditions, and both are to be reckoned amongst “the works of the flesh and the devil.” There can be no fellowship between the power of the adversary working in his agents for witchcraft and Spiritism and the power of Christ working in his agents and representatives and through the Word of truth. The two are in opposition, however much at times the evil may claim relationship to the good. So it was in Samaria, as related in this lesson: the gospel opposed the doctrines of devils propagated through witchcraft and sorcery, the effect was to make the people free, and even Simon the medium was convicted and professed outwardly a conversion and was baptised.
Philip’s discourse is but briefly outlined, but it was along the same lines as the discourses of the apostles noticed in the previous lessons. He preached the “things concerning the Kingdom of God.” How fully he explained these things—that the Kingdom would be a spiritual Kingdom, that flesh and blood could not enter it or even see it, and that not the Jewish nation would be heirs of that Kingdom with Messiah, but only such as become believers in Jesus, devoted to him and suffer with him, thus attesting their loyalty to the divine plan. We cannot doubt, however, that Philip preached the second coming of Messiah to establish and exalt with himself the Kingdom heirs now being sought out, and subsequently through that Kingdom, to bless the world of mankind. We cannot doubt that he urged them to believe in Christ, and by a consecration to him to become joint-heirs with him in the Kingdom, if so be that they suffered with him, that they might also reign with him. Nor did his preaching omit the things pertaining to “the name of Jesus Christ,” and connecting his name as Messiah with all the Kingdom hopes which were before the Jewish mind. We doubt not that he pointed out to them that the names of Moses and of Abraham and of the prophets, although great, were insufficient for salvation—that there is none other name given under heaven or amongst men whereby we must be saved.
(14-17) It is worthy of note that Philip the evangelist, although possessed of the holy spirit and possessed also of certain gifts of the spirit, did not possess the power to communicate such gifts to others. Evidently that power resided only in the twelve apostles—Paul being the twelfth in place of Judas. Consequently, two of the apostles were sent to lay their hands upon the believer and to communicate the gifts of the holy spirit.
After seeing the wonderful gifts and powers which the apostles were able to communicate, and no doubt after he had received a gift from them himself, Simon the sorcerer offered the apostles money in order to be endued with this apostolic power of communicating gifts of the spirit to others. Hence the name, “Simony,” given to any attempt to purchase spiritual powers. Up to this time Simon had passed for a thoroughly converted man; but on the strength of this evidence of his non-appreciation of spiritual things the Apostle Peter tells him with very great plainness of speech that he has neither part nor lot in the matter but is yet in the gall of bitterness—is still unregenerate—merely a spectator and not a participator in the spiritual things.
Alas! how many to-day, like Simon, are associated with spiritual things, but have neither part nor lot in them; who merely give their money in hope of some advantage, and not with an appreciation of the spiritual things.
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THE ETHIOPIAN CONVERT
—MARCH 7.—ACTS 8:26-40.—
“Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same Scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.”—Acts 8:35.
WE are not to suppose that up to this time the gospel had been preached to any except Jews. The eunuch, the story of whose conversion is before us, was a Jew. The law made special provision by which an alien could become a Jew, and this Ethiopian evidently had availed himself of that provision. He was
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a devout Jew, an Israelite indeed, a man of influence and some wealth; his devotion had led him to the Holy City, to which hundreds of thousands came yearly from various quarters.
His sincerity as a worshiper of the true God was evidenced by his desire to know the will of the Lord, as indicated by his searching the Scriptures. It is to such that the Lord draws nigh and reveals himself: not by whispering to him an understanding of the passage in question, but by sending a Philip to him to expound the Scriptures; just as in the case of Cornelius, Peter was sent to tell him words of salvation that should be for the saving of himself and household. Philip was evidently a zealous servant of the Lord, and hence was used of the Lord in the especial manner recorded in this lesson; the Lord seems to look out for those who are of a ready mind, emptied of self and filled with his spirit, and zealous, to be used in his hand, and such are his special servants. Let us all more and more be emptied vessels for the Master’s use made meet.
Philip’s inquiry—”Understandest thou what thou readest?” was a very pertinent one; a question that might be applied to a great many Christian people today who, if they answered truly, would admit that very much of the Scripture is to them “as a book that is sealed”—some claiming that it is sealed, others claiming that they are unlearned and therefore unable to interpret. (Isa. 29:11-14.) Would that more had the spirit of the eunuch—a desire to understand the Scriptures and to avail themselves of such humble instruments as the Lord may be pleased to send to them for their aid.
How the Lord drew the attention of the eunuch to the particular passage of Scripture which perplexed him is not recorded; but no better one could have been found as a text from which to preach Christ crucified, a sin-offering, a sin bearer, a ransom for all. And Philip improved the opportunity to preach Jesus as the fulfilment of this prophecy, the propitiation for our sins, by whose stripes we are healed. Whoever will read over the announcements of discourses for fashionable churches in almost any large city will be struck with the dissimilarity of the themes discussed from those upon which Philip and the apostles discoursed with so much power and with so great results eighteen centuries ago. And who will say that this has nothing to do with the admitted coldness and deadness in the nominal church? The gospel which is the power of God unto salvation is not the gospel of politics, nor of social reform, nor of temperance, etc., but the gospel of salvation from sin and death by a Savior who has bought us with his own precious blood.
Philip’s directness of discourse is worthy of note. He did not ride along in the eunuch’s company avoiding the principal theme, making inquiries about Ethiopia, the condition of crops, the business outlook, etc., but, as having a particular business to attend to as a
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servant of the Lord, he got to preaching immediately. But then, the eunuch was an attentive inquirer. As a Jew he had been waiting and hoping and praying for the Messiah and his Kingdom. He knew of certain passages of Scripture which extolled the glory of that Kingdom and the blessings that would flow from it: other passages which seemed somewhat in conflict he did not understand, and now an explanation had been offered to him which in every sense of the word fitted the prophetic statement and reconciled all differences. What else could he or any honest man do than accept the facts of the case? Quite possibly indeed he had already heard of Jesus, and possibly had heard this very Scripture referred to as fulfilled in him.
Now that the matter was set clearly before his mind—what it meant and how it was fulfilled—he wasted no time in acknowledging Jesus the Messiah; he straightway inquired whether or not anything hindered his espousal of the cause of the Nazarene and his recognition as one of his disciples by baptism? We should mark also the directness of Philip’s answer. He did not say, You will have to go to the mourners’ bench and be prayed for, quite a while, before God will accept you; nor did he say, The proper thing for you to do is to join this or the other denomination after you have studied its catechism and made a profession of its lengthy man-made creed or covenant. On the contrary he said, If you believe with all your heart, you may properly perform this symbol of union with Christ, burial into his death.
It is well to note also that Philip did not say to the eunuch, It is sufficient if you have the real baptism, the real consecration of your life to the Lord, the burial of your will into the Lord’s will, and you need not perform the outward symbol in water. Philip said nothing of this kind; nor had he or anyone else authority to thus offset the word of the Lord and the apostles, directing all believers to thus symbolize their faith and consecration. It is worthy of note, also, that Philip did not say to the eunuch, “I will go yonder and fetch a little water in the palm of my hand, and sprinkle it upon your forehead;” but the record says that “they both went down into the water” and came “up out of the water.”
In what manner the Lord by the spirit caught Philip away is not stated, but we should remember that this was at a time when means of locomotion were limited and when God was pleased to exert his infinite power in various ways in connection with the establishment of his Church.
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LETTERS OF INTEREST
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:—I feel that I owe you an apology for my long silence, and wish to say that it has been more carelessness on my part than anything else. I have felt less the necessity of writing you often since others of our company have written, and in this way you heard from us, and we from you.
We have just had a week of meetings: meeting every evening for counsel, prayer and song, in which all were benefited who attended, and this included nearly all our number, though some were kept away through sickness and other causes over which they had no control. We all felt the need of a closer walk with our dear Lord, and to this end sought a deeper work of grace in our hearts, and the Lord responded to our petitions by meeting with us and granting to all that sweet subtle communion which every true child of God has experienced and yet cannot describe. I can see the benefits of the meetings already in the increased zeal of those who attended. Some are suggesting that we hold a series of public meetings, and it looks just now as though the way would open up for a series of meetings in Pool’s Hall, about 1 1/2 miles east of here.
The churches in Indianapolis are making a special effort now to arouse a fresh interest in religious things. The ministers all seem to realize their spiritual deadness, which has come (as one of them expressed it to me) like a mighty wave over all the churches. I attended the meeting of the Indianapolis Ministerial association the 1st Monday of this month. I noticed by the papers that the subject for discussion was, “Is there a lack of spiritual life in the churches?” and what are the causes? and the remedy? The gentlemen who had the first part of the subject did not even debate the subject but spent the first four minutes of ten allotted to him in reading and commenting on statistics which might well arouse them to greater energy. The next speaker was Pastor of the 1st Presbyterian Church, and said among other things that the increase for the year just closed in four of the leading Presbyterian churches of the city was less than 4 per cent. and that in 1600 (if I remember rightly) of the Presbyterian churches of the country there were no accessions whatever. A dark picture, surely, to all those who believe that all efforts for the salvation of the race will end with this age.
This same speaker mentioned the fact that he had attended Moody’s meetings in New York about 20 years ago and that then the Word seemed to go out with power and take hold of the people, especially church people. But that in Moody’s recent meetings, which he had attended also, there seemed to be a total lack of power, for which he was unable to account.
The gentleman who took the next phase of the subject, i.e., “What are the causes of this deadness?” after naming various causes, mentioned as perhaps the principal cause a tendency among ministers to speculate on various subjects “thereby dividing the thought and confusing the minds of their audience.” He mentioned as a particularly detrimental subject of speculation, “The Second Coming of Christ,” and then added by way of apology “that he did not wish to criticise those who had views upon this subject, as doubtless some present did, but as for himself he had no views at all.” Poor “blind leader of the blind!” Had he the least conception of the depth of shame involved in such a confession as this, falling from the lips of a so-called minister of the gospel, he would surely bow his head in shame. But no, as Paul puts it, he seemed to “glory in his shame;” and not a minister present raised his voice in rebuke of such shameful ignorance. The gentleman who took up the last division of the subject, whose business it was to suggest a remedy for existing evils in the church, was a “Holiness man” and, of course, suggested a baptism of the “Holy Ghost.” Some seemed to coincide with this view and feel their own deep needs, while others sleepily listened and seemed to think that everything was in a fairly prosperous way, though none of them were very hilariously jubilant. Surely, “the wisdom of her wise men shall perish.”
The last speaker mentioned the fact that he too had been present at Moody’s meetings in New York 20 years ago, and that he had recently heard from friends in the East who attributed Moody’s lack of power to his speculations as to the Second Coming of Christ. Is it not significant that two out of three speakers gave as the most potent factor in producing this “spiritual deadness” and “lack of power” the agitation of the second coming of our Lord? I think it is. It seems to be an index showing how unpopular this subject is among the D.Ds. It seemed so queer to me: everybody addressed every other body as Doctor. I could not help thinking how ridiculous it would sound to say, “Doctor Peter,” and what the impetuous old fisherman would have thought. I really felt sorry for these men. But as I witnessed their anxiety and seeming helplessness, I felt like suggesting that preaching the gospel would be an experiment worth trying at least as a remedy for the deadness of their churches.
With Christian love, in which Sister Owen joins, to yourself and Sister Russell, I am as ever,
Yours in our dear Redeemer,
C. A. OWEN.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:—We have had some very peculiar experiences of late. We have been holding public meetings (lectures from the chart), and announced them in the papers. At our first meeting a lady attended (a stranger) and at the next brought along four more. After attending four meetings they desired us to fill an appointment at one of their homes, which I did. The room was well filled; subject, “The Church, and Her Steps to Glory;” and they all expressed themselves as well pleased, and have asked for regular meetings.
This is all a great surprise to us. We learned that there are some fifteen or twenty, nearly all women, who have come out of the churches and are holding meetings among themselves. No objections have been offered to any of our views, but many intelligent questions were asked; reading matter was acceptable, and we distributed a lot of tracts.
Your brother in Christ,
S. J. ARNOLD.
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