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VOL. XVIII. MAY 1, 1897. No. 9.
Can You Do More?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 126
Views from the Watch Tower. . . . . . . . . . . . 127
Federation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127
Enforcing the Decalogue. . . . . . . . . . . . 130
God’s Wonders. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 131
Take Heed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 131
A Truthful Criticism. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 134
Celebrations of the Memorial Supper . . . . . . . 134
Paul’s Message to the Jews. . . . . . . . . . . . 137
A Light to the Gentiles . . . . . . . . . . . . . 139
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CAN YOU DO MORE TO SERVE THE TRUTH?
WE hope that each TOWER reader will ask himself this question; and then act according to his answer. Furthermore, we want to assist whoever will accept our assistance.
The past three years of financial depression have greatly hindered what we esteem to be the chief branch of the work—the colporteuring of MILLENNIAL DAWN—and the circulation, instead of increasing yearly, has been decreasing, because many of the colporteurs, unable to make expenses, have been obliged to go into other employment.
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Let us, dear Brothers and Sisters, by the Lord’s help, take a fresh hold of his work. The people never needed the truth more! It is the only thing that will keep them from Infidelity! People never were more ready to receive the truth! They realize that some great changes are at hand, and many want to understand them. “When the judgments of the Lord are abroad in the land, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness [truth—justice].” If we are anxious to serve, the Lord will give us an opportunity. Here it is!
* * *
Colporteurs and others will please preserve the names of Swedes wishing VOL. III., so we can send them notice when it is ready next year.
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VIEWS FROM THE WATCH TOWER
FEDERATION OF PROTESTANTS
IN our last we called attention to the federation of the various Protestant denominations in Great Britain, aside from the Church of England. The New York Independent noticed the matter as follows:—
“We gave account last week of the meeting of the Free Church Council in London, and we asked why such a confederation of the Protestant Churches in this country could not be inaugurated. The subject is well worth further and frequent consideration. That meeting represented the Wesleyans, Baptists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, indeed all the free Churches of Great Britain with two million communicants. It was the most representative meeting of English Christians held for over three centuries; for the members of the combined Free Churches of Great Britain slightly outnumber the communicants of the Established Church. Separated hitherto, they now are confederated. They are one. They no longer suffer under the reproach of a divided Church. They have declared that they believe that the Church of Jesus Christ should be one, and they have made it not merely spiritually, but visibly one, so far as lies in their power. Why should British Christians be more progressive than we in America? Yet, somehow, an old and compact country like Great Britain does work out some problems faster than we do. They are in advance of us in giving popular postal service, postal banks and postal telegraphs; and here we find them far in advance of us in this great popular Christian movement which brings believers into public and confessed fellowship in Christ.”
FEDERATION OF YOUNG PEOPLE’S SOCIETIES
Since (1) it is a settled fact that the Young People of the various denominations will not be encouraged by their denominational “Elders” to unite as Christian Endeavorers, and that such a union is feared, especially by Methodists and Presbyterians, as tending to break down and remove all denominational barriers; and since (2) denominational federation comes slower than was hoped for, it is now proposed to establish a Young People’s Christian Federation. This will partially satisfy those who are clamoring for Christian Union without denominational restrictions; it will also fix things where they are, and make it “irregular” and “a breach of etiquette” to criticize, or attempt to supplant, any of the allied or federated Societies; and it will pave the way for the desired denominational federation, which we know from the Scriptures is rapidly approaching, and will be of injury to pure, primitive Christianity, and lead quickly to Church and State alliance and to the collapse of the present social order.
Asked, some time ago, how soon such a federation might be expected to take shape, we suggested that the opening of the twentieth century would be a likely date, as it is growingly the spirit of our times to start large undertakings on prominent and propitious days and years. We are therefore surprised to find the prime-movers in this federation naming a date so far in advance as the new century. This federation we should expect sooner, and the Church federation by 1900, A.D. We quote the views of people prominent in these Young People’s Societies.
H. K. Carroll, LL.D., who suggests this federation, and that the congress for the purpose be called for the year 1900, gives as their total membership 4,414,776. We quote from his article in the Independent the following expression:—
“As immediate union of all these bodies is out of the question, why should there not be an Alliance or Federation of them? They have no creeds that stand in the way of closer relations. There is no question of polity to keep them asunder. They have the same
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object, similar pledges, and practice methods which do not vary widely. Such a Federation could in no way injuriously affect the denominational loyalty or usefulness of any society. Neither would it interfere with denominational control and denominational development.”
Bishop W. X. Ninde, of the M.E. Church, president of the Epworth Board of Control, endorses Dr. Carroll’s suggestion, as follows:—
“While organic union seems impossible, certainly for the time, there are no Christians in the land who feel a stronger yearning for a union of sympathy and cooperation in Christian work than do the young people represented in the Epworth League. We are fully committed to the general plan of a Federation or Alliance of Young People’s societies. Our Board of Control, at its recent session in New York, emphatically reaffirmed its wish for the closest spiritual unity with all Christian young people, and its readiness to make or receive overtures for joining hands in all practical methods of Christian work.”
Mr. J. W. Baer, general Secretary of the Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor, says:—
“The committee will welcome suggestions, and may its efforts be blessed in binding all the young people of evangelical churches into a closer spiritual fellowship that shall in no way interfere with denominational control. There is no reason why everything that is worth having in the way of denominational control of young people’s societies should not be maintained without sacrificing anything that is worth having of interdenominational fellowship.”
J. T. Beckley, D.D., one of the trustees of the same society, says:—
“Federation is the next step forward in the Young People’s movement. It is logical and providential. The uprising of the young people is the most significant fact in the history of modern Christendom—the twenty-ninth chapter of the Book of the Acts. Its import is far-reaching. It is a splendid apologetic. When the enemy was claiming that Christianity was decadent and the Bible was a last year’s almanac, this army of consecrated disciples, numbered by millions, came to the front.”
Rev. J. A. Duff, of the Young People’s Christian Union of the United Presbyterian Church, says:—
“There is a growing conviction in the minds of many that Christianity as represented by the Protestant churches—each one working in its own way without reference to the success of the whole—does not present a united front against either idolatry or the spirit of the world. While not ready for union, many are ready for such a movement as will combine the efforts
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of all and direct against the things that ought not to be.”
Rev. J. P. Landis, D.D., president of the Young People’s Christian Union, United Brethren, says:—
“As far, therefore, as I have a right to speak for our Young People’s Christian Union, I say, by all means let there be a meeting called of all the young people’s organizations; and as 1900 seems to be a specially appropriate time, let it be then. We shall vote for a Federation.”
It is worthy of note that all these gentlemen feel sure that the proposed federation could do no harm to any denominational interests. Evidently they are not aware that their chief concern is for the preservation of their several denominations. The Lord’s plan is very unpopular, because it denounces sectarianism where it does not ignore it entirely.
THE NEXT STEP PREPARING
Comparatively few realize the motive which lies back of the movements of leaders towards the federation of religious systems. Neglecting to observe the testimony of God’s Word, that the mission of this age is the selection of the Church of overcomers to be, with Christ their Lord, the “Royal Priesthood,” to bless and rule and teach the world during Christ’s Millennial Kingdom, they have, to the contrary, concocted the theory that the conversion and ruling of the world is the Church’s mission during the present age. After eighteen centuries they find that in this zenith of their efforts nearly two hundred beings are born for every one that is even nominally converted; and probably five or ten thousand for every one that becomes a fully consecrated “overcomer” or “saint.” They reflect that at this rate it will be many centuries yet before they could hope to bring about conditions by which God’s will would be done on earth as in heaven.
Wishing to encourage each other, and to impress the world, they want union or federation or something which will “make a fair show in the flesh;” and they begin to feel just as Papacy did fifteen centuries ago,—that God wants them to take control of the world in his name and rule it, and enforce religion by civil law. They forget that this same erroneous view, put into execution by Papacy, not only led it to establish the great antichristian counterfeit of God’s Kingdom, but also led to the persecution, in most terrible forms, of those who stood faithful to the Word of God.
The new movement contemplates a participation in politics as a means of getting control of the world for the Lord; and Christian Citizenship Leagues are being formed. The following is their statement of their object clipped from the Christian Citizen.
“Not until the Kingship of Jesus is established over our land and the world, and his teachings are made the rule in all public affairs, will the Christian Citizenship League have achieved its purpose to prepare the way of the Lord. And then it shall be found that not only has the way for his coming been prepared, but that he has indeed and in truth come.”
Thus they not only claim that our Lord’s second coming cannot take place until they thus prepare his way, but finally they intimate that this success will
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make his personal coming unnecessary. They will act as his vice-gerent in establishing righteousness, and can equally be his representative after the important work of conquest is accomplished.
Very true! If they can do all the hard work of conquering the world and the devil, they will deserve the glory and honor. It is clear, however, that present arrangements, multiplied ten-fold, could never bring to earth the heavenly conditions promised in our Lord’s petition. The rightful King must take unto himself his great power and begin his reign, and bind Satan, and liberate the “groaning creation” before peace on earth and good will toward men and glory to God in the highest can be looked for.
CHURCH AND STATE
Evangelist B. F. Mills is advancing along the line above pointed out. He is quoted as saying in a recent discourse:—
“It is a mistake to consider the Church as a society for worship or benevolence instead of an agency for transforming the world. It is the business of the Church to see that the State conducts its affairs in a Christian fashion.”
The editor of the (Syracuse, N.Y.) Herald criticizes this utterance very wisely, as follows:—
“Then if the majority in the State were Jews, would it be the business of the Jews to see that the State ‘conducted its affairs’ in Jewish fashion? Or if a majority were not Christians, would it be the business of the majority to see that the State was conducted in a way not Christian? This is a government by majority, but in order to protect as much as possible the minority against the intolerance and persecution which invariably come with majority rule Constitutions are established as the fundamental law of the State under which the rights of the minority to freedom of speech, freedom of printing and freedom of worship are made sure. The genius of our government is the complete separation of church and state, yet here is a minister of a denomination which knows the meaning of persecution for nonconformity to the ideas of the majority as to what constitutes Christianity, advocating religious domination—which means denominational domination in its logic—in the State.
“Mr. Mills will have difficulty in finding authority in the New Testament for his doctrine that it is the business of the Church to supervise the State: It was the fear that the mission of Jesus Christ was to institute a sorely needed revolution in Judea that led chiefly to the persecution and death of the Founder of Christianity.
“Against this charge made by the orthodox Jews he protested. ‘Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, means that he would not have the Church see to it that the State was dominated by it. The words and example of Paul were always in direct refutation of the doctrine enunciated by Mr. Mills. Both knew that the moment the church became political that moment it would begin to lose in spiritual power, and the history of nineteen centuries has proved the scientific soundness of their position. The Church cannot have an influence upon the State in the way suggested by Mr. Mills without becoming political.
“It is the business of the church to call men to repentance, to preach the gospel—the ‘glad tidings of great joy’—to work for the spiritual regeneration of mankind through regeneration of the individual. In this business it has employment for all its energies and talents, and thus employing itself it is a more powerful influence for righteousness in the State and righteousness of the State as a governing corporation than it can possibly be in attempting directly to dictate politics to the State and to be the State. The government of the United States and of the State of New York are as much the governments of the non-Christian as of the Christian; of the Jew as of the Gentile; of the Pantheist as of the Trinitarian; of the Agnostic and Deist as of the strictest of the sect of special creationists who believe in divine direction of the affairs of mankind. It is the business of the Christian church not more than of the Jewish church to see to it that the State is dominated by ethical principles, by morality, righteousness, justice and mercy; and it can do this best by following the example of Christ and Paul, not that of Constantine.”
“WHAT IS WRONG?”
In the Christian Endeavorer Rev. C. S. Bullard propounds the question, “What is wrong?” and proceeds to answer it as follows:—
“Every pulpit in the land guarded by law—nearly one hundred thousand men of learning and ability set for the bringing to the attention of other men the life and death message of God—and yet—
“Multiply the twelve apostles by eight thousand and how soon they would turn the world up-side-down! What is wrong?
“Think of England—the brightest part of Europe. Eighty thousand criminals; one hundred and sixty thousand drunkards; one hundred thousand prostitutes; nearly ten hundred thousand paupers, and a drink bill of one hundred and thirty-six million pounds sterling! Is that the best the gospel of Jesus Christ can do for England?
“Look upon our own land—over seventy-three million population and about twenty million enrolled members in all branches of the church! Seven million young men, of whom but five per cent. are enrolled as members of the church. These, as a fraction of one of the million, attend church somewhat regularly, another million attend occasionally, but five million never attend. Think of arresting over one and a half million of men and women annually—fifty millions in a generation! Crime increases four and a half times faster than the population. What is wrong?
“Here we stand upon the threshold of the twentieth century with the record of forty million people habitually absenting themselves from the house of God! We have perfect machinery and a seemingly large amount of zeal—we are doing everything we can think of to reach the ungodly—we have tried spinning-wheels and grab-bags, theatricals and tableaux, broom drills and donkey socials. We have fiddled to them
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and fed them with ice cream and cake, and tickled them with funny stories, yet ‘Ichabod’ seems to be written upon everything we do. What is wrong?
“Is there a power that can change these things? What is needed? Paul cries, ‘The gospel is the power of God.’ O, that is what is needed—power! POWER! Power in the Church and through the church IN POLITICS, TO REGENERATE SOCIETY. The only thing that can
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correct the things that need correction is the ‘gospel.’ Let us apply the gospel in liberal doses!”
Yes, indeed, power is needed to bring order and righteousness to all the troublesome questions now perplexing the world,—Labor, Capital, Finance, Socialism, Trusts, True Religion, Sectarianism and Superstition, all need power, a mighty power, and a wise and good power, to take hold of them to put down the wrong and to lift up the right. But will the church by going into earthly politics be this power? Never! She holds no such commission. On the contrary, if saints could be put into office, it is very doubtful if they could continue to be “saints” under such unfavorable conditions, attempting to rule the world before the time appointed and without their “Head.”
Yes, men in every station of life are beginning to see that the world needs a “strong government” to hold it in check; and the more general the enlightenment of the masses the greater this need—to control the avarice and discontent and to cause the bounties of divine providence to minister blessings and happiness to every creature. No earthly power can do this: our Lord’s promised Kingdom—the fifth universal empire of the earth (Dan. 2:44; 7:22,27), and it only, can meet the conditions. It was in full view of this necessity, and to meet it, that a second advent of our Lord was promised;—not as a man and for suffering of death, but as the Lord of all, in power and great glory, a spirit being—as invisible to men as is the present “prince of this world,” Satan, and still more powerful. While the many make ready “Christian Crusades” in politics, and “Boy’s Brigades” for future assistance, the true “soldiers of the cross” will fight the good fight of faith against their own weaknesses, while praying to their Lord, “Thy kingdom come: thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven.”
ENFORCING THE DECALOGUE IN KANSAS
The following bill has been introduced in the Legislature of the State of Kansas by Representative Walters. It calls for the enforcement of the Ten Commandments given to Israel at Mt. Sinai:—
“An Act to give statutory force to the Ten Commandments:
“Whereas, The men of the present generation have become doubters and scoffers; and,
“Whereas, They have strayed from the religion of their fathers; and,
“Whereas, They no longer live in the fear of God; and,
“Whereas, Having no fear of punishment beyond the grave, they wantonly violate the law given to the world from Mt. Sinai; therefore,
“Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Kansas:—
“Section I. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
“Section 2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image,” etc. [Each one of the commandments constituting a separate section of the Act.]
“Section II. Any man who shall violate any of the provisions of this Act shall be punished as follows:—
“For violating Section I, $1,000 fine; for violating Section 2, $1,000 fine and one year in the penitentiary; for violating Section 3 or Section 4, $500 fine; for violating Section 5, $500 and six months in the penitentiary; for violating Section 6, hanged by the neck until dead; for violating Section 7, penitentiary for life; for violating Section 8, fine or imprisonment, in the discretion of the court; for violating Section 9, imprisonment, in the discretion of the court; for violating Section 10, fine and imprisonment, in the discretion of the court.
“Section 12. This Act shall take effect and be in force from and after its publication in the statute book.
“This proposed measure only contemplates in part, and on a small scale, what is proposed in the “Christian Amendment” to the constitution, which has progressed far beyond the possibilities of a joke. That amendment says that ‘the revealed will of Jesus Christ’ shall be ‘the supreme authority in civil affairs’ in every State in the Union. The revealed will of Christ includes the law of ten commandments. The ‘Christian Amendment’ would do for every State what Mr. Walters’ measure proposes to do for the State of Kansas.
“It is proposed that the Kansas legislature shall enact, ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me.’ As the speaking party in this enactment would be the legislature, the law would be that the legislature must be the god of everybody in the State. And the god who speaks the law having been determined in the first section of the Act, the same god would be meant by the phrase ‘the Lord thy God’ in succeeding sections. Thus by the third section it would become blasphemy to speak lightly of the Kansas legislature, and in the fourth section this assembly would put forth the stupendous claim of having created the heavens and the earth!
“Absurd as such claims would be, they are no more than what is really involved in every instance of religious legislation. For religion being the performance of those duties which an individual owes to his God, only God can rightfully command such duties; and when such duties are commanded by any party, that party by that very act assumes to be God. …
“Another point that must not be overlooked is raised by the query as to what will constitute a violation of this Act. Jesus Christ said that hatred in the heart was a violation of the commandment which says, ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ which is Section 6 in Mr. Walters’
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bill. (See Matt. 5:21,22.) No doubt it will be acknowledged that there is no higher authority upon the subject than this. The courts will therefore be obliged to take cognizance of hatred as a violation of Section 6 of this State law, of lust as a violation of Section 7, etc., and inflict the penalties specified in the Act. The enlargement of the State prisons and penitentiaries which the punishment of such persons, together with all who were covetous, would demand, it would be needless to try to specify. The penal institutions would simply have to be made large enough to take in the entire population of the State.”
We heartily concur in the Sentinel’s comments, but must point out an inconsistency. The Sentinel is an able representative of “Seventh-Day-Adventism;” and the back-bone of that institution is the Law given at Mt. Sinai, referred to above. That Law is held out continually as the criterion for all “Seventh-Day Adventists;” and it is claimed that all who do not keep that law will fail to obtain eternal life. Why then should the Sentinel, above all other journals, object to the enforcement of that Law?
Ah! despite its theory, that the Law is in force upon Christians as it was upon the Jews, the Sentinel cannot help seeing that no member of the fallen race can keep that Law. Hence its comment that, if it be enforced, “the entire population of the State” (including Seventh-Day Adventists) will be found guilty of violating it. The essence of the gospel is that our Lord Jesus, having kept the Law perfectly, gave his life a ransom price (not to break or destroy the Law, but) to justify believers, not by the Law, but by faith.
“THY WONDERS ARE A MIGHTY DEEP!”
As a marvel, the telegraph, by which an energy can be communicated at a distance, prepared the way for the still greater marvel, the telephone, by which sounds and tones can be communicated long distances. Next came the Roentgen or X-ray, by which rays of light can be passed through a plank, a tree, or a human being. Now, finally—no, not finally, for we know not what may await us in the future still more marvelous—the latest wonder is a method of telegraphy without wires or any other connections. Progress has been made in this direction for some time past, and some success was attained by W. H. Preece, head of the British government telegraph system. But now complete success has been reached by a young Italian, named Marconi, whose device has been patented and is now being put into practical operation along the British coast, for communicating from shore stations to light-ships, from half a mile to twenty miles distant.
Experiments show that the electric influence is exerted through or by peculiar vibrations upon the air (250,000,000 per second) which affect a “receiver” and produce a record similar to a telegram by wire. It is expected that an instrument of large size would communicate all around the world simultaneously, wherever “receivers” were placed for recording the messages. These wave currents pass through brick, stone and iron walls as readily as through open air. Astounding as it may seem, the only fear expressed is that “in using the instruments on an iron clad [war vessel] the waves [of ether] might explode the [powder] magazine of the ship.”
After six thousand years of human pride and boasting, God is now saying to mankind, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the people, I will be exalted in the earth.”—Psa. 46:10.
What now will so-called Rationalists say to their former boast that they believe only what is tangible? And what about certain Christian (Second Adventists and others) who on rationalistic grounds claim that there could be no such thing as a spirit body, invisible to human sight, and accordingly dispute that our Lord, after his resurrection, came into the upper room while “the doors were shut” and claim, contrary to the inspired record, that he opened the doors and came in unnoticed.
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By and by the world will have such evidences of invisible things in nature, that faith in spiritual things which eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of the natural man to conceive, will be an easy matter.
Meantime the infidels of the world are rapidly becoming “Spiritualists”—deceived by the fallen angels from whom God’s people are protected by the instructions of the Holy Scriptures.
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“Wherewithal shall a young man keep his way pure [keep a clean course in life]? By taking heed thereto according to thy Word.”—Psa. 119:9.
NEVER in all the centuries of the past was the exhortation to “take heed” as opportune as to-day, when the temperament of the age is aptly illustrated by its two great motive powers, steam and electricity. There is to-day more rush and force than thought and precision. The active brains of the world are scheming for fortunes and rushing to gain them; and very few in any condition of life take time to consider
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and to weigh and compare principles and motives of action, to see whether the ends for which they strive are worthy of their efforts. They rush and push and pull because the very conditions of their birth in this time impel them to do so, even though the end of their aspirations be but empty bubbles and bitter disappointments. And this, which is true of the world at large, is also true of the professed Christian Church: the active spirit of the age has permeated its pulpits, its pews and its theological schools. But this activity, partaking largely of the spirit of the world, has taken more of a business than of a pious turn, and tends more to the emphasizing of the forms of godliness than to the cultivation of its vital power, and more to worldly than to spiritual prosperity. It was of a similar class in the Jewish age that the Lord said, “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib; but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.” (Isa. 1:3.) Let the thoughtful Christian, therefore, look well to his course and see that he is steering it in exact harmony with the divine Word and plan.
The Psalmist, in the above text, suggests the most worthy ambition of life; viz., to keep our course of life clean and free from the contaminations of this evil world. The suggestion is specially apt in its application to the young, whose tender years and inexperience have as yet learned little beyond the loving discipline of the home circle, which the text presupposes. Parental love, counsel, discipline, example and prayers have thus far guided the youthful feet in the ways of righteousness and peace, and now, at the verge of manhood and womanhood, life’s great work and its stern duties and responsibilities must be faced; the youth must come in contact, to some extent at least, with the wickedness of an ungodly world, where the metal of his character will be put to the test, and often to very crucial tests when it is discovered that the way of the ungodly prospers in the present time.
It is true, indeed, that the tendency of “evil communications” is to “corrupt good manners.” (1 Cor. 15:33.) As the ear becomes accustomed to profanity and to unkind and bitter words, and the eye to sights of misery and injustice, the tendency is to blunt the finer sensibilities of the pure and good, so that in time the heart will become more or less calloused and unsympathetic, unless these unholy influences are steadily resisted and the ways of the world shunned.
But how, inquires the Psalmist, shall a young man keep his way (his course of life) clean? how, in his inexperience and lack of competent wisdom, shall he succeed, often single-handed and alone, in stemming the almost resistless current of evil about him? How can he prosper in business without resorting to the tricks of trade? how can he gain the desired places of social distinction or political preferment, if his course of life is continually against the current of the world’s ideas and its means and methods? in other words, how can a man be in the world, and not of it?
That such a thing is both desirable and possible to the Christian is plain from our Lord’s prayer for his disciples (John 17:15-17), “Holy Father, … I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them [separate them from the evil] through thy truth: thy Word is truth.”
The Psalmist raises the question for the very purpose of suggesting the answer, and his answer is in full harmony with our Lord’s prayer, not that they should be taken out of the world, but that they should be kept from the evil, showing that the only way for a young man to keep his course of life clean is to take heed thereto according to the Word of the Lord. As the Apostle Paul also says, the “scriptures given by inspiration of God are profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, … and are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”—2 Tim. 3:15,16.
But the Scriptures nowhere show the Christian how to blend the spirit and methods of Christ with the spirit and methods of the world, in order to make what men call success in life. They do not open up the way to either financial, political or social success, but they do “teach us that, denying ungodliness and worldly desires, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; looking for that blessed hope [of the gospel] and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify unto himself a peculiar people [not a people striving after the things of this world, but] zealous of good works.” (Titus 2:12-14.) Yes, the young man who would follow Christ must forego the ambitions and pleasures of the present life, and live for the enduring and satisfying riches of the life to come.
But the Word of the Lord, full as it is of wisdom and counsel, cannot profit even the professed Christian who does not in a meek and prayerful spirit come to its pages for instruction. Nor does it profit the careless reader who fails to meditate upon its precepts, or who only occasionally looks into the perfect law of liberty and beholds himself, but straightway forgets what manner of man he was (Jas. 1:22-24), and therefore fails to apply the instruction. But he who can truly say,—”Thy words were found, and I did eat them [I appropriated them diligently to the building up of my character]; and thy Word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart;” “my delight is in the law
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of the Lord, and in his law do I meditate day and night; I meditate also of all thy work, O Lord, and talk of thy doings; I meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways; I delight myself in thy statutes, I do not forget thy word” (Jer. 15:16; Psa. 1:2; 77:12; 119:15,16): these, and only these, are ordering their steps aright, by taking heed to the Word of the Lord.
This was the course that Paul recommended to Timothy, that he might keep himself pure from worldly contamination, and be an example and faithful minister to others, saying, “Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. … Meditate upon these things, give thyself wholly to them, that thy profiting may appear to all.”—1 Tim. 4:12,15.
The profiting certainly will not appear if the means are not thus used. Character cannot ripen except under proper conditions; and if professions abound where character is lacking, or is not correspondingly developed, how sad is the plight, and how manifest the self-deception to every discerning saint!
In view of these things, therefore, let the young Christian mark well the counsel of wisdom, and take heed to his course according to the Word of the Lord. Let him come to it for answers to all questions of right and duty; and let him study how the perfect law of God—the law of love—applies to all the conditions and circumstances of his daily life and associations and obligations. In so doing there cannot fail to be a steady growth in grace, and the fruits of the spirit will not be lacking.
But youth is not the only time when it is necessary to steer one’s course by the Word of the Lord. While the only right way to start in life is by taking heed to our way according to God’s Word, it is equally right and necessary to heed it and to meditate upon it to the very end of our days. A life thus spent becomes beautiful in old age, which should show all the fruits of the spirit tinged with the glow of ripeness, and be a loving benediction to all within the range of its influence. Indeed, what a pattern of godliness does every aged saint present when the hoary head is crowned with the beauty of holiness, when a long life of self-denial and self-discipline gives a practical demonstration of the power of divine grace to overcome the downward tendencies of our fallen nature! What a pattern should the aged Christian be, of patient self-forgetfulness, of loving sympathy and gentle forbearance, able to give kindly counsel and timely assistance in various ways to those who are still bearing the burden and heat of the day, cheering them onward and inspiring them to noble deeds and persistent fortitude,
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and fully appreciating all their labors of love!
But, alas! the well-spent lives are few. How few have remembered their Creator in the days of their youth, and from youth to age have taken heed to their way according to God’s Word! In many cases youth has been worse than wasted in sowing “wild oats,” and subsequent years have reaped the bitter harvest; life’s discipline has been endured with murmuring and chafing, the disposition has grown sour, and life a tiresome burden. Alas! too often, even among professed Christians, has the failure to “take heed” permitted the unholy passions to flourish to the great detriment of all spiritual progress, until at last but little remains except empty professions which bring only dishonor upon the name of Christ. Such is the result of a mere start in the Christian life with little or no endeavor thereafter to develop Christian character according to God’s Word. Yet God is gracious, and he is slow to anger and plenteous in mercy, so that at whatever point in its downward way or its backslidden course, whether in youth or age, the soul halts and changes its course from the paths of sin to the paths of faith and righteousness, there the love of God is made manifest in pardon and peace, and the operations of divine grace are realized in helps and encouragements to pursue the upward way. But, at whatever point we start in the Christian life, from that starting point begins the duty of diligently taking heed to our way according to God’s Word. If we grow careless of this duty, and heedlessly blunder along according to our own understanding, meditating upon our own likes and dislikes, our selfish preferences, or our own depraved tastes and ideas, instead of upon the precepts and principles of God’s Word, and endeavoring to bring our own ideas and ways to that standard of righteousness day by day and year by year,—if such be the listless, shiftless indifference that marks our course, we cannot hope to retain the divine favor; nor can we grow in grace and approximate more and more the likeness of Christ.
The spiritual life, like the physical life, develops according to fixed laws. As the natural life must be nourished and fed according to the laws of nature in order to sustain and develop it and keep it in health, so the spiritual life must be nourished by the various means of grace and fed continually by the Word of the Lord.—”Thy words were found, and I did eat them.”
If, then, we realize that, through any measure of neglect, we are out of the way and find in ourselves a low state of spiritual health, let us bestir ourselves to redoubled diligence. No matter how long we may have walked in a blundering way, the Lord stands ready with his grace to help and his presence to cheer as soon as we turn with our whole heart unto him in earnest desire and determination by his grace to overcome. “Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking
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guile. Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.” But “the face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. … The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.”—Psa. 34:13-16,18.
M. F. RUSSELL.
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A TRUTHFUL CRITICISM
“TO see a Roman Catholic Priest stand within the precincts of his church, and bowing before its altar, while at the same time lecturing from the Bible, and making it his sole arbiter and final court of appeal, is a strange anomaly—indeed we might say a ‘new thing under the sun.’ One is inclined to ask, What does it all mean? Either he is coming round to Protestantism, which makes the Bible its only standard, and infallible guide, or he is only giving a seeming support to the Bible by keeping out of sight the baneful doctrines of the mass and purgatory, that thereby he may win back numbers to his fold. If the former is true, we welcome him to the green pastures and still waters of the Word of God. If the latter, we trust all those who appreciate freedom—that freedom so dearly bought,—will remember the policy of Rome, ‘she changes not;’ ‘instruments of cruelty are in her habitation,’ and she will become more and more the ‘hold of every foul spirit and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.’ (Rev. 18:2.) Saith the Lord—’Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues, for her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.’ (Rev. 18:4,5.) Let us stand fast, therefore, in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.—Gal. 5:1.
“In looking over the subject matter of the lectures themselves, what struck me most was the entire absence of the Gospel of Christ. On such a theme as the destiny of man we might surely expect that ‘the only name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12) would have been proclaimed full and free; but no. Little wonder then, that the world is full of agnosticism, gloom and despair when such a Christless Gospel is put forward as the saving truth of God. How one could wish that the rev. father, instead of closing his lecture by quoting the Law as the way to life, had copied the divine wisdom given to the Apostle Paul, who said to the Philippian gaoler, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.’ (Acts 16:31.) For if through law we have righteousness, then Christ died unnecessarily.—Gal. 2:21.
“The world can draw no comfort from these worn-out husks of gloom and eternal torment on the one hand, or from the new but unscriptural and unscientific (unproved) notion of evolution on the other. Never did the groaning creation need a Deliverer—and a great one—more than now.”
Thus writes Brother C. N. Houston to one of the British journals, commenting on a public discourse on “The Destiny of Man.” We commend the method to all who possess the requisite talents. Besides such occasional articles Bro. H. takes betimes “a week off” from his store to colporteur for DAWNS. He usually has excellent success. He is “not ashamed of the gospel of Christ:” his friends know this;—and so does the Lord. To “overcome” pride and “the fear of man which bringeth a snare” is a very important item in connection with a full consecration and a desire to be used up in the Lord’s service.
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CELEBRATIONS OF THE MEMORIAL SUPPER
THE celebration of the death of the antitypical Paschal Lamb, our Lord Jesus, on its anniversary, this year the evening of April 15, was very general, as judged by the numerous reports thus far received. As usual, the numbers of communicants varied greatly, from two or three individuals to a couple of hundred,—and in several instances solitary believers worshiped and partook alone, association with others being impossible. All reports seem to indicate deep spiritual blessing and a growing appreciation of the great event celebrated, as the center of Christian joy and hope.
Those who deny the ransom,—that we were bought with a price, even the precious blood of Christ, have properly neither part nor lot in memorializing that great transaction;—nor have those who by lives of sin make themselves “the enemies of the cross of Christ.” (Phil. 3:18.) Hence the fact that the number at each place, as well as the number of places, seems to show considerable increase over previous celebrations, is a favorable indication.
The occasion at Allegheny will long be remembered by some present. Beginning at 4.30 P.M. there was a baptism service. In a discourse of nearly an hour the true Scriptural idea of immersion was set forth and contrasted with popular but false ideas on the subject. It was shown that water immersion is not for the remission of sins, nor to be a door into an earthly church, but that it is a symbol merely, an outward confession of an immersion of the heart, the will, into the will of Christ;—a full consecration or immersion into
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Christ as members of his mystical body, sharers in his death to the self-will; and in our case also a death to sin. (Rom. 6:3-5.) Twenty-four adults (twelve each sex) were immersed in symbol in water, assenting first to their faith in the Lord as their personal Savior, whose sacrifice for sin formed the only ground-work of their justification and acceptance with the Heavenly Father; and, secondly, assenting that they had already consecrated, buried, immersed their wills into the Lord’s will, laying ambition, talents, earthly possessions, hopes, fears,—all, even life, at the Savior’s feet, to be henceforth, to the end of the race, used not for themselves, but wholly devoted to the service of him who loved us and gave himself for us. It was a solemn and impressive service, not for them alone, but for the hundred or more witnesses present, the majority of whom had made and symbolized the same covenant.
From eight to nine-thirty o’clock the Supper was celebrated. The significance of the unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine as representatives of our Lord’s broken body and shed blood, and of our Lord himself as the antitype of the Passover lamb, were considered: it was shown that as the institution of the
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type, the night previous to Israel’s departure from Egypt, affected first the first-born of Israel and later all Israel, delivered from Pharaoh and Egypt, so the death of our Lamb (Christ Jesus—”the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world”) affects first, during the Gospel age, the “Church of the first-born” ones and subsequently, during the Millennium, will affect the deliverance of all who are or who will become God’s true servants, delivering them from the slavery of Satan and the present evil world.
The emblems of our Master’s broken body and shed blood were sweet to us, and by faith through the emblems we partook of the merits and graces of our Lord and his exceeding great and precious promises vouchsafed for the future. We were sad at the thought of our Lord’s sufferings for us; yet glad—so glad—that he paid the great price for us. We noticed, also, the Apostle’s suggestion (1 Cor. 10:16,17) that the bread and wine not only symbolize our Lord’s body and flesh broken for us, but that since we are accepted of him and are reckonedly his flesh and his bones while in the earthly tabernacle, so the bread (one loaf) represents our flesh consecrated to death with our Lord, in his service and in the service of his people. Likewise we have a communion (common union or fellowship) in the cup—our earthly lives are consecrated to be poured out in death, that we may partake with our Lord also in his new life—”partakers of the divine nature.”—2 Pet. 1:4.
Having celebrated the death of the antitypical Passover Lamb, let us now celebrate the antitypical feast of Passover, not for a typical seven days, but for the antitypical period—all time, forever—feeding upon “the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth,” and abstaining from all sin, symbolized under the Law by leaven.
We give a few very brief extracts from some of the reports of the Memorial celebration at hand, as follows, requesting that all friends who reported accept this as our acknowledgment:—
Cohoes, N.Y.—The Memorial service was held as usual, and I cannot help but feel that it was the most blessed season that we have yet witnessed; such a deep spiritual atmosphere attending it.
Hegewisch, Ill.—Just a word about our celebration of the Memorial Supper in this place. There were seven of us present—all truth seekers and believers in the ransom. We first sang a few appropriate hymns, then had a short testimony meeting,—subject “Why is Christ precious to me?” Then a season of prayer followed, after which there was a brief review of our reasons for celebrating the Supper at this time, and a short talk on 1 Cor. 11:23-32, especially with the thought of showing forth the Lord’s death “till he come.” We pictured the eventful night of his betrayal and his death. As we thought of the sufferings, the bloody sweat, the broken heart of our dear Savior, the tears came in all our eyes. Then, as the emblems were passed, we felt as never before the truth, “Is it not a participation of the body and blood of the Anointed One?”
One thing I must not forget: We each made some request to be prayed for, and the answers received during the past few days have been truly wonderful. Praise God! The one thought uppermost in our service seemed to be,
“We may not know, we cannot tell
What pain he had to bear,
But we may know it was for us
He hung and suffered there.”
Waukesha, Wis.—Eight met to partake of the bread and wine of our Lord’s Passover. We each renewed our covenant relationship for the new sacred year, promising to be more zealous if possible in the Master’s work.
Salem, Ore.—I am happy to be able to write once more of our meeting together to commemorate our Lord’s death, “till he come.” Altho we have not had many additions this year, we were all rejoiced to meet together without one missing, all in their places, and none sorry of their covenant, but all confessing to growth in Christian faith and fellowship.
We earnestly desire your prayers in our behalf that we may grow in all the graces needed to become like our Master and true representatives of him, while spreading this glorious truth. We all received a great blessing, and we pray for all the little flock everywhere.
Ballston, N.Y.—Greeting in the Lord Jesus Christ, our “Elder Brother!” At the Supper there were seven present, a goodly number, and we had a
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spiritual feast. It is not yet a year since the first one of six came into the light. I was requested to take charge of the Supper, and I did so, meekly but not doubtingly. Blessed be God that giveth us the victory! I am assured that we pray in union of spirit; and the Father’s Word through Christ is being manifested to his saints. Glorious is our hope!
Hayne, N.C.—Brother Draper has come and gone, but his influence remains. Notwithstanding the busy season, made more so by excessive rains which had just abated, the attendance at the series of meetings was very good, about filling the house in the day time, while many could not get in it in the evenings; so much so that on invitation of prominent Baptists who begin to see and love the truth services were held in their larger church house, which would not accommodate many that went. People of all creeds here and nearly all of the neighborhood heard and seemed to understand. Five symbolized baptism, and others expressed a desire to do so after hearing the explanation of the symbol, and when it should be performed. About 35 partook of the Supper, three times as many as ever before. It was indeed a delightful occasion. We are truly grateful for the Brother’s visit, as it seemed to be the right time for some who are beginning to see, and others who are willing to hear. We feel like much good has been accomplished here, and would like to have him come every year, or oftener, but want him to go where he can do the most good, and expect to do more to help send him. Pray for us that we may grow in grace and hold out faithful to the end.
Indianola, Ia.—Five met on Thursday evening to celebrate the Memorial Supper. I think we all realized a blessing in a renewal of our consecration and consequent obligation. May the Lord help and keep all his own everywhere.
St. Petersburg, Fla.—About fourteen rejoiced in commemorating the Lord’s last Supper, and a very delightful meeting it was. We all felt the necessity of a closer walk with God, more love for Christ and the brethren, a fuller dependence on God’s promises and a more careful watch, lest the enemy tempt us from the “faith once delivered to the saints.” Our Norwegian brethren thought best to partake by themselves.
Huron, S.D.—Last night six of us met to remember our Lord’s death “until he come,” and to renew our covenant with him. After prayer we read John 6:31-57; 1 Cor. 10:16,17 and 11:27-30. Sweetly the Lord met with us. I never felt the force and beauty of the symbol so much before, and I believe that was the experience of all. Our hearts burned within us. May we be kept willing to be led.
Philadelphia, Pa.—The Church here observed the Memorial Supper last evening. About 40 partook of the emblems, and 8 (4 brethren and 4 sisters) symbolized their consecration into Christ’s death by immersion.
Bethlehem, Pa.—Our little meeting here last evening proved a season of sweet refreshing to all present. There were 13, and our dear Redeemer seemed very near and dear to us. We were greatly strengthened and blessed, especially as we realized that all the Lord’s people everywhere were meeting for the same purpose and praying for one another. May we be kept humble, and constantly watch and pray!
Columbus, O.—Our little band met last night to remember the anniversary of our Lord’s death on our behalf. We had a very interesting and profitable waiting on the Lord, and many expressed themselves as having been refreshed and edified. 27 partook of the emblems, 6 of our class being absent, but we had 5 from adjoining towns. We felt that the influence of the Lord was present. All seemed to feel deeply the solemnity of the occasion, and yet every face seemed joyful, as if while sympathising with our Lord in his suffering, they could not help rejoicing over the result to both himself and to us and to the world. We remembered all the little bands of like precious faith and felt that we were remembered by others.
New York City.—The Church here held the meeting in commemoration of the Lord’s death.
A devotional meeting preceded, beginning at 6.30 and closing at 8 P.M., which proved a genuine feast of spiritual food and a fitting preparation for the principal service. About sixty were present, including
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some from neighboring localities. The Lord was there and blessed us wonderfully, as he is constantly with us, teaching, leading and sustaining us in every condition, according to his promise, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the age.”
Dinwiddie County, Va.—I humbly trust I may never count the blood of my Redeemer a worthless thing or cast off the covering of his name. We read for our Memorial lesson the 13, 14 and 15 chapters of John. They contain much for prayerful thought and study. The love of the Savior is most touchingly manifested in his tender solicitude for his disciples and his words of counsel to them, even though troubled that his hour was so near at hand. We partook of the emblems realizing that we were again renewing our covenant to be faithful unto death.
Cambuslang, Scotland.—Fourteen Christians met here last night to commemorate the Lord’s death, and it was a time of great blessing. I believe we all felt the Lord’s presence with great power.
Iowa.—I am still seeking to serve the Master to the best of my ability. I intended to meet with a few brethren and sisters at __________ for the celebration of the death of our dear Lord, but circumstances did not favor; but the dear Lord permitted me to partake of the emblems alone, and I had a precious, soul-refreshing feast.
Boston, Mass.—The work is progressing grandly under our great Captain. At the Memorial fifty-three were present, and it was a season of sweet communion with Christ. The Sunday previous eight (seven sisters and one brother) were immersed. We obtained the use of the Disciples’ church. Every one of these dear people give evidence of full consecration to God.
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N. Indianapolis, Ind.—Brother Wise conducted the services here, and it was a very blessed service—21 present, most, if not all, of whom have made a public consecration of themselves, their lives, their all, to God, through the beautiful and appropriate symbol of water baptism.
Linton, Ind.—Twenty to twenty-five, the majority of whom had never before seen the real import of this Memorial, nor the propriety of celebrating it but once a year, commemorated the death of “the Lamb of God.”
Los Posas, Cal.—We had a precious season at the Memorial Supper. There were twelve present—the same number as last year. We felt drawn nearer to the Master and to each other in Christian fellowship.
Scranton, Pa.—We had a very precious season of spiritual communion at the recent celebration of the Memorial Supper. Twenty were present—eight more than last year. We are seeking to grow more and more in the grace as well as in the knowledge of our Lord.
Grass Valley, Cal.—Five of us partook of the Memorial Supper, feeling our own unworthiness, the value of the covering of the precious blood and resolved to live nearer than ever to our blessed Lord. Two were immersed.
Oakland, Md.—We enjoyed a very pleasant season of communion on the occasion of the Memorial Supper celebration. Twenty-four were present, and about one-half the number partook of the emblems of our Lord’s broken body and shed blood. It was an impressive service—the most so far of any ever enjoyed by us here.
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PAUL’S MESSAGE TO THE JEWS
—MAY 9.—ACTS 13:26-39.—
“Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins.”—Acts 13:38.
PAUL and his company did not stop at Perga, where they landed, but proceeded about one hundred miles inland to Antioch, probably because the inhabitants of the latter place were of a more intelligent class. The Apostle was not looking for the most degraded people, but for the most intelligent, and particularly those who were Jews or who had come in contact with the Jewish religion. This was a different Antioch from the place in Syria of the same name, whence they commenced their journey. As was their custom, they immediately sought prepared soil in which to sow the gospel seed: they went, therefore, to the Jewish synagogue. According to the Jewish custom a portion of the Hebrew Scriptures was read in the hearing of the audience, and the chief men of the congregation, discerning the intelligence of their visitors, asked them to make some remarks. It has been presumed by some that, as Paul’s discourse seems to make reference to Deut. 1:31 and Isa. 55:3, these Scriptures had probably been portions of the reading lesson in the synagogue, and that the Apostle took the daily lesson as the text for his discourse.
The Apostle Paul was the spokesman, and without going forward to the rostrum, he spoke from his place in the synagogue, addressing first those who were Israelites by birth, and secondly, such Gentiles as had become proselytes to the Jewish religion, and who, therefore, met with them in worship,—”Men of Israel and ye that fear God.” Beginning with the history of God’s dealing with Israel, the Apostle reviewed that history down to the time of Christ; thus, wisely, giving his auditors assurance of his full sympathy with the Jewish hopes and the divine promises, quickening in their hearts the desire for the long promised Messiah and reviving their hopes in the great promises to be fulfilled through him.
Having thus gained the attention and interest of his hearers, he was ready to preach unto them the crucified Messiah, and (verse 26) he now intimated that the message which he bore to them was one of special favor. They were aware that the most pious Jews resided in Jerusalem and Palestine, and that they themselves were reckoned as being to some extent alienated from God and from the promises, because they had preferred a residence among the Gentiles, rather than in the land of promise. It was appropriate, therefore, for two reasons, that the Apostles should explain why his message came to them rather than to the more zealous Jews of Palestine. He explained (1) that their fellow Jews, including the leaders of the nation, at Jerusalem had proved themselves unworthy of the gospel by rejecting and crucifying Messiah; and (2) that this very crucifixion, so far from overthrowing the divine arrangement, had merely been another step in the program foretold by the Lord by the mouth of his holy prophets. He pointed out that the crucifiers of Messiah had merely “fulfilled all that was written of him.” Supposing a question in their minds—How could it be that the chief priests and chief religionists of our race could make so great a mistake, and so fail to rightly interpret the prophets?—the Apostle answers the objection, telling them that it was “because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every Sabbath day [and which] they have fulfilled in condemning him.”
But this is not all—”God raised him from the
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dead,” and of this we also have witness; and this message of the death and resurrection of Messiah constitutes the “glad tidings” of the fulfilment of God’s promises made to father Abraham. This Jesus is the “seed” of Abraham, through the merit of whose death and by virtue of whose resurrection the promise to Abraham shall be fulfilled,—that in him “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” with a full opportunity of eternal life.
With his usual logic the Apostle anticipated objections in the minds of his hearers,—Could Messiah die? etc., and he proceeds to prove to them from the words of the prophets that thus it was written beforehand. Although Messiah had long existed as the archangel, nevertheless the prophet David, speaking for God, said concerning him, “Thou art my son, this day have I begotten [literally borne or delivered] thee.” The Apostle would have his hearers note that this birth mentioned referred to our Lord’s resurrection, as it is written, he was the “first born from the dead,” “the first born among many brethren.” If Messiah was to be thus born from the dead, it implied that he must first die, and hence the Apostle gives this as a prophetic prediction fulfilled in our Lord’s experiences.
He quotes again the words of Jehovah through the prophet, addressed to Messiah,—”I will give you the sure mercies of David,”—i.e., I will make sure to thee forever the mercies of David. The Apostle quotes this to prove that, altho Messiah as Michael the archangel had been great even before David’s time, yet it would be at a later date, and as a result of some work which he would perform, that the mercies promised to David and his seed would be made sure to Messiah. This transaction was the giving of “his life a ransom for all,” and the making sure to him of the Davidic promises by the Almighty was evidenced “in that he raised him from the dead.”
In harmony with this is another statement by the prophet David, which evidently referred to Messiah and not to David himself, since it was not true of David. It reads, “Thou shalt not suffer thy holy one to see corruption.” By this reference the Apostle would prove to them further, that God has specially promised the
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resurrection of Messiah, and that thus was indicated his death and temporary subjection almost to corruption. This could not apply to David who did see corruption to the full; but it was true of Christ who “saw no corruption,” tho brought down almost within its grasp.
Then comes our Golden Text, which is the center and pith of the Apostle’s discourse. He was not merely talking to tickle their ears respecting their being the seed of Abraham, nor was he talking for the purpose of showing his comprehensive grasp of Israel’s history; nor was he merely telling them the story of our Lord’s crucifixion. More than all this, it was an individual message to every heart before him in condition to receive it,—namely, “Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins.” The Apostle does not refer to something that was done by our Lord as the archangel before “he was made flesh” (John 1:14), nor does he refer to any work to be done by him in his new, highly exalted condition, “set down with his Father in his throne” and partaker of his divine nature; but he here refers to the work done by “the man, Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:5,6) at Calvary. Thus the Apostle again emphasizes the fact that “as by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.” (1 Cor. 15:21.) Yes, this is the center of the gospel proclamation that the failure of the first perfect man was fully offset by the sacrifice of “the man Christ Jesus,” and that it was to this end that it was needful for our Lord to leave the glory which he had with the Father before the world was, to become poor (in the sense of taking our lower nature—but not its blemishes, for he was “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners”); and yielding up this human nature a ransom-price or corresponding price for the life forfeited by father Adam for himself and his race. This is the basis upon which every offer of grace is presented by the Scriptures. And now, he who was the Father’s agent in the redemptive work is to be the Father’s agent also in the work of “blessing” all the redeemed with ample opportunities for return to divine favor—the first step of which is the forgiveness of sins.
Whoever realizes the divine perfection and himself a sinner, imperfect and under condemnation of Justice, and desires reconciliation with God—and the result thereof, eternal life—such, and such only, are prepared to receive the gospel of redemption and forgiveness and help. “By him all that believe [after the manner described] are justified from all things [reckoned right, just, pure and perfect, notwithstanding all their inherent blemishes and uncontrollable weaknesses].” From none of these things could the law of Moses justify any. The law of Moses condemned every failure, but was powerless to forgive, and had no means of making permanent atonement or covering for those who were under that covenant, because its mediator, Moses, did not and (being himself a member of the fallen race) could not fulfil that covenant and satisfy its demands in his own person, for himself and the people. Hence, Moses and his covenant had not power to grant mercy or justification, as can be done under the New Covenant by its mediator, Christ Jesus, who sealed it with his own precious blood, “a ransom for all.”
Paul preached the only genuine gospel—the only one authorized—the everlasting gospel which ultimately must be preached to every creature.
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A LIGHT TO THE GENTILES
—MAY 16.—ACTS 14:11-22.—
“I have set thee to be a light to the Gentiles.”—Acts 13:47.
“LET their table become a snare and a trap unto them,” said the prophet respecting Israel. Their “table” consisted of the divine favors and truths which were spread before Israel. “What advantage then hath a Jew? Much every way; chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.” Divine favor produced pride of heart instead of humility, and unfitted the majority of Israelites to inherit the chief blessing offered to that nation. Consequently the words of the Apostle (considered in our last lesson), logical and convincing, in that they were in harmony with the testimony of the Law and the prophets concerning the Messiah, were nevertheless coldly received, because they ran counter to certain Jewish prejudices: (1) Altho Paul preached a Jewish Messiah it was the crucified One. (2) If his message were true, it reflected very discreditably upon the heads of their nation and church, of whom they had been accustomed to boast as the greatest and holiest teachers of the world. (3) If the Apostle’s message were true, it vitiated if it did not utterly destroy their long cherished national hopes that Israel would shortly be the great nation of earth, in principal power, instead of Rome. The Messiah for whom they hoped was not the meek and lowly crucified One whom the Apostle preached, but a mighty, earthly conqueror of men and nations. (4) If the Apostle’s preaching were correct, Israel was no longer in a place of preference above the other nations, and those who would accept Jesus of Nazareth as Messiah, whether Jews or Gentiles, would become the holy and divinely recognized Kingdom on a common level. The various promises which in their selfishness they misinterpreted, served to blind them to the pure, true light of the gospel as it now shone upon them.
But those of their number who had been proselyted from amongst the Gentiles had less cause for stumbling on these points, being less prejudiced by national pride and selfishness. These seem to have heard the message with true appreciation and inquired for further opportunities of meeting and hearing more of the good tidings, and the privilege of bringing with them Gentile friends who were feeling after God (verse 42). The result of the second meeting was a little nucleus of believers. By and by the news of the new Jewish gospel became noised abroad throughout the city, the result being a large concourse to the synagogue on the following Sabbath.
Here was a new line of temptation to reject the gospel, which bore upon such Jews as were not in proper condition of heart to receive it; the concourse of the Gentiles made them “envious.” They said within themselves: We have tried long and earnestly to make an impression upon these Gentiles, but they seem to have no ear for the Law of Moses, few of them attend our meetings: but now that these missionaries of a new gospel have come they seem both willing and anxious to hear them. The result will be that they will despise the Law of Moses, and claim that our church is breaking up, and that after waiting for Messiah for centuries our holiest people crucified him. Thus we shall become a reproach in the eyes of our neighbors, even if we reject this new gospel, and still more so if we receive it. Their selfishness and envy triumphed, and then they began to think of and use all the arguments they could find in opposition to the teachings of Paul—even “blaspheming” the Messiah whom he preached. Thus the greatest and grandest truths become the most crucial tests, stumbling the proud and selfish, and lifting up and blessing the humble and devout. There is a great lesson here for all. As our Lord said, “Take heed how ye hear.”
Then Paul and Barnabas told them very plainly that while it was necessary that the gospel should be preached first to Israel, as per divine promise, it was nevertheless now to be extended beyond them to all Gentiles. As usual he quoted them a text on this subject from the old Testament, saying, Thus the Lord through the prophet commanded us: “I have set thee [Christ] to be a light to the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.” The rightly disposed among the Gentiles were glad of this message, but the Jews, who should have rejoiced at the broadening of the divine mercy and grace, only hardened their hearts the more against the message; because the light and favor which they had already received had not dissolved the selfishness of their natural hearts.
Concerning the Gentiles it is written, “As many as were ordained to eternal life believed”—better translated, “As many as were disposed for everlasting life believed;”—as many as were in the right attitude of heart, who desired reconciliation with God and eternal life along the lines preached by the apostle, believed.
But as usual the majority were in opposition to the truth, and amongst their number were found some of the most religious and most prominent. These raised the persecution, and “the brethren,” obeying
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the Word of the Lord, “When they persecute you in one city flee unto another,” shook off the dust from their feet and departed for Iconium, where, notwithstanding the prejudice which spread from Antioch, quite an interest was aroused; and when later an endeavor was made to stone them there they fled to Lystra, the scene of the present lesson, where the apostle Paul performed a very notable miracle, healing a cripple. The people, seeing it, came to the conclusion that as their heathen mythologies told of the visits there of gods in the form of men, in the past, this must be another such occasion. Barnabas, the elder and more venerable looking of the two, they called Jupiter; and Paul, the fluent speaker, they called Mercury. When the brethren found that they were about to do sacrifice to them, they went quickly into the crowd, explaining that they were merely men, and quite in opposition to such procedure were there for the purpose of explaining to them the true God and the true
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sacrifice for sin.
What a temptation would have been here for any not well controlled by the Lord’s spirit! How many arguments the world, the flesh and the devil could bring up to encourage them in accepting the homage of the people? It would have been a pleasant experience to be treated as gods, feasted and honored, as a change from their usual experiences of privation, persecution and tribulation. They might have reasoned, moreover, that by accepting a little homage they might gain a larger amount of influence with the people and thus pave the way for a gradual presentation of the gospel. Or they might accept the homage applied to themselves in a symbolic fashion as true, might speak of the Lord Jesus as a still greater God than themselves, and Jehovah as the Almighty God above all, and might thus put a favorable turn to the superstitions of the people. But all of this would have been subterfuge which would have done injury not only to the people and to the gospel, but also to the brethren themselves. And altho they did no more than their duty in resisting the homage as they did, nevertheless we note in the fact that they did it with alacrity, the proper spirit of loyalty to the one God and our Lord Jesus Christ, and the properly prompt resistance of every suggestion of the adversary towards self-aggrandizement or self-exaltation. Would that this noble spirit were fully exemplified in all of the Lord’s people! Let us take well to heart the lesson of promptness in resisting the devil’s baits for the weak points of our earthly natures. We are not ignorant of his devices.
The apostle immediately made this mistaken reverence a text for a discourse in which he presented to his hearers, the one true God as the source of every blessing.
But persecution followed them, and the same people who at one time were ready to offer them sacrifices, stoned Paul as they supposed to death. Miraculously revived, he departed with Barnabas to the next field of labor, Derbe, where he found some more (pupils) ready to enter the school of Christ as disciples.
Notwithstanding persecution in these various cities, the brethren were mindful of the interests of the Lord’s flock, and returned to them for the purpose of strengthening or confirming the faith of those who already believed, but apparently with no thought of public meetings; the inference being that all who were “disposed” to accept the offers of eternal life under the gospel call had already heard the message. These, however, needed help and development. This is a point too frequently lost sight of to-day by servants of the gospel; public preaching is very proper and necessary, but in addition “the flock of God” needs constant feeding. Quite evidently the brethren had no expectation that the gospel, even when preached under plenary inspiration, would convert all, or even a majority, of the people. Knowing that God designed it for the selecting of the “little flock” to be joint-heirs with Christ in his Kingdom they acted accordingly.
We note that in these exhortations to believers an important place is accorded to “faith,” and we have found in our own experience that a well-founded faith is essential to a well-constructed character built upon it. The second point of their exhortation to the believers was,—that “through much tribulation must we enter into the Kingdom of God.” They did not tell them that all their tribulation was past and that God would protect them from any in the future, because they had believed, neither did they tell them that the Kingdom of God consisted of a work of grace in their hearts; neither did they assure them that they already were the Kingdom of God in the full sense; but on the contrary they assured them that this Kingdom of God, which Israel had failed to attain, because not ready of heart to receive their King, had been postponed of establishment until God should select from the Jews and Gentiles “a people for his name” to be joint-heirs with the Messiah in his kingdom. They would therefore have the believers wait for the Kingdom for which they pray, “Thy Kingdom come;” assuring them that the narrow path which leads to the Kingdom signifies much experience in tribulation as fitting and preparing them for a share in that Kingdom, by developing in them good characters as copies of God’s dear Son.
How necessary that this should be the exhortation to believers still! The Kingdom is a great prize, and he who would attain it must run faithfully and endure hardness, and that unto the end of his race. For such is laid up a crown of righteousness which the Lord of righteousness will give him in that day.
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