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VOL. XVIII. JULY 1, 1897 No. 13.
Views from the Watch Tower
The “Jewish Question”…………………… 191
The Diamond Jubilee, etc………………… 193
What Say the Scriptures about Spiritism?
—Proofs That it is Demonism
Modern Spiritism and Its
Paul a Prisoner at Philippi………………… 200
Poem: Cumbered with Much Serving……………… 203
The Gospel to the Noble and to the
More Noble…………………………… 203
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VIEWS FROM THE WATCH TOWER
AS THE hour draws near, indicated by the prophetic hands of the great clock of the ages, when “Gentile Times” shall end and God’s Kingdom shall take control of earth’s affairs, with the natural seed of Abraham as its earthly representatives, in the Land promised to Abraham (Acts 7:5), every intelligent student of prophecy naturally watches the events bearing upon the promised land and the covenant people.
It is just about a year since Dr. T. Herzl, a learned Hebrew of Vienna, published his book advocating the foundation of a “Jewish State,” in Palestine, the old homestead, as the only practical solution of the “Jewish question.” His views, now known as “Zionism,” have been taken up by leading Jews and Jewish journals the world over, and while some opposition has been aroused it is wonderful how general is the Jewish sentiment in favor of the project.
Rabbi Stephen Wise, of New York, says of the movement:—
“The Zionists here and everywhere, however, are thinking of the homeless in Israel. Ours it is to plan and toil, not for ourselves alone, but even for those whose existence is threatened by the passions and prejudices of the different peoples among whom their lots are cast. Have we not witnessed the oft-repeated triumphs of ‘scientific’ anti-Semitism at the German polls? Few are the nations which are wholly friendly to the Children of the stock from which sprang Jesus of Nazareth.
“Enlightened and God-fearing Christendom will marvel at the spectacle of a comparatively small band of heroes venturing upon a task of appalling magnitude. Were all Christendom truly Christians, there were little or no need of this movement. But Zion must be rebuilt, because the law that went forth therefrom hath not prevailed among all of its professors. In the meanwhile I doubt not that the American people will, with characteristic admiration for personal and national heroism, applaud and God-speed the hardy and hopeful upbuilders of a new Zion.”
Dr. Moses Gaster of London, Chief Rabbi of the “Sephardim” Jews of all Southern Europe, said recently, respecting Dr. Herzl’s Zionist proposition:—
“I feel a very keen interest in the scheme, dating back from the time when I was living in Roumania, and was instrumental in founding the first Jewish colony in Palestine. I have always cherished the conviction that the future of the Jewish race lies there, and nowhere else. I regard Dr. Herzl’s scheme not as a politico-economical idea, but rather as a religious one. It is impossible to divorce such a plan from the religious ideals which underlie it. On the practical details he has developed I refrain from pronouncing an opinion, because it is impossible to say what form the movement will assume when once the masses are stirred with enthusiasm. I presided some months ago at a mass meeting of fifteen hundred East End London Jews, and nothing could have exceeded the enthusiasm at Dr. Herzl’s appearance. It is the masses that decide such questions.”
Delegates representing Jewish societies in all parts of the world have already been chosen, to meet August 25th in the city of Munich, Germany, to consider the most practical steps to be taken for the attainment of the aims of Zionism. The following prominent Jews are in charge of the convention,—Dr. T. Herzl, Max Nordau, C. Montefiore, Dr. DeHaas.
How remarkable that such a movement should take place at the present time! When in 1878 we pointed out that according to prophecy the set time for the return of divine favor to Israel was then due to begin, and that the beginning was in the putting of Egypt
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and Palestine measurably under British protection by the Berlin Conference, the idea was scouted by many. When we declared that the return of Israelites to Palestine was the next step, the Jews themselves scoffed, declaring that to be an absurdity: that the Jew in Germany was a German, in England an Englishman and in the United States an American, and so elsewhere the world over.
When the Russian persecution drove thousands to seek other homes, Palestine was spurned as a barren land. Baron Hirsch, the German millionaire, started with lavish expenditure a new land of promise in Argentina, South America; and wealthy American Hebrews helped their brethren by thousands to the United States. But some of the poorest Russian Jews looked longingly to Palestine and went thither—to find the land dry and barren enough. However, for these God raised up friends in Sir Moses Montefiore and Baron Rothschild who, seeing their destitution, pitied them and started Industrial Schools and Experimental Gardens for their instruction, hospitals for the sick, etc.
Then came the decree of the Sultan that no more Jews be permitted to settle in Palestine; and shortly the Russian persecution abated, and a few years of quiet followed in which affairs have been developing and the Jews have learned certain lessons. (1) The Argentine colony, backed by millions and under seemingly most favorable conditions, has not been a success but a great failure, financially and every way. The Jews colonized there are dissatisfied. (2) The Jews brought to the United States have succeeded only fairly well. (3) The Jews who went to “barren” Palestine have prospered phenomenally. As if by magic the land became more fruitful and happy, and gives evidence of a permanent revival. As a result the eyes of all Israel are turned Zionward, and their watchword is Zion! Zion! Verily, O Lord—”Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.” Surely, in this we have another distinct evidence that we are in “the Day of Jehovah.”—See MILLENNIAL DAWN, VOL. I., Chap. 15.
Seeing this trend of events with Israel, we look in another direction to see in what way the Lord will open the gates to permit their return. And as we can now see a providence and blessing in the retarding of their emigration for a time, until the divine favor upon the land should center upon it the interest of all Jews, we shall expect ere long to see the doors opened wide,
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and that many not only of the poor, but also of the rich of Israel will seek Palestine as a home. We do not expect, however, as the Zionists do, that they will succeed speedily in organizing an independent Jewish state. This cannot be until the full end of Gentile Times—in the end of A.D. 1914. See MILLENNIAL DAWN, VOL. II., Chap. 4.
Turkey still rules over Palestine, and her success in the war with Greece has emboldened her to feel a greater independence than she has felt for nearly a century. She is concentrating troops in Europe from her Asiatic provinces, and the great powers fear a war, while all are striving for peace. The Grand Vizier of the Empire, the Sultan’s Prime Minister, has recently expressed himself as follows, as reported by the London Standard:—
“My great age, and the confidence shown in me by appointing me the Grand Vizier of so glorious a Caliph, emboldens me to submit to your Majesty my views on the question of the day. The successes of our soldiers over their enemies have so revived the ardor of the nation that an important portion of it, which was previously alienated from you, has now been won back. The whole of Islam is, therefore, one soul and one body, and stands around your throne in an invincible phalanx. Sire, look upon the Powers of Europe as enemies, who are plotting the destruction of Turkey. If, in the present circumstances, we yield to European pressure, not only shall we have done nothing to ensure our existence, but we shall alienate our Mussulmans. Therefore I implore your Majesty, for the sake of your victorious ancestors, to retain Thessaly. If you seize this opportunity, you are destined to revive the ancient prowess of the great Sultans of the past. During your glorious reign there have been several questions which Europe laid stress upon, and on which you refused to be dictated to, such as the Armenian question and others. What was the result? You gained the victory. Let these examples guide you in the matter of Thessaly, but if my views are unpalatable to your Majesty, I beg you to accept my resignation.”
Various jealousies and differences of interest hinder the great powers of Europe from uniting determinedly on any policy respecting Turkey. Austria would take the side of Turkey rather than permit Russia to gain too much by absorbing it. Russia would take sides with Turkey rather than let Austria absorb it, etc., etc.
There are not lacking other sources of European complication which some consider much more dangerous to peace. For instance, the German Emperor is credited with desiring to form a European combination against Great Britain, to hinder further extension of her empire, if not to reduce it. English journals have for some months been urging for a larger and more efficient British army, to repel feared foes. The balance of power is held by France, and British statesmen are alarmed at the growing intimacy between France and Germany. It is even claimed by some writers that the volatile French admire in Emperor William II. the very qualities of show and bombast and autocracy which Englishmen and Americans consider to be his weaknesses.
The London Spectator says:—
“The German Emperor is credited with a project
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for uniting the whole Continent in a war with England, which—says one scribe supposed to be inspired—’could afford to each power engaged a magnificent compensation.’ The league is to be for plunder. … Emperor William II. is almost as formidable an enemy as Napoleon, and we do not feel sure that he will not ultimately succeed in organizing a coalition of some kind the motto of which will be Delenda est Carthago. … We shall not have a long warning if a crisis comes.”
Another influential journal says:—
“The Emperor of Germany will have to be reckoned with whether in Africa or Europe, and in the stirring developments that are pending it is not to St. Petersburg, Paris, or London that one must look for a clew, but to Berlin.
An Amsterdam journal, Handelsblatt, voices the sentiments of many of the intelligent of America. It says:—
“It seems to us that a coalition against England is in formation not unlike that created by Napoleon I., and that England assists in the work by estranging her friends [by her colonial and financial policies] and leaving her army in its present condition. We hope we are mistaken. Nothing more horrible could be imagined than a victory of the autocrats over free England and her noble people. For, after all, that people remains one of the wonders of the world, be its Government ever so blind.”
But Great Britain has able statesmen who doubtless will guard her interests and conciliate France and Russia. However, we see various national complications possible, any one of which would be tolerably certain to affect the future of Palestine and open its gates to the natural seed of Abraham,—preparatory to its becoming the Capital of the world.
But whether it comes peaceably or by war, we expect Palestine to be open to Israel in less than five years. Nor do we expect that any war that might occur (for we do not anticipate a great war) would be the predicted great turmoil that will wreck the present social order.
THE DIAMOND JUBILEE
The whole world has echoed and reechoed joyous congratulations to England’s Queen, jubilating the sixtieth year of her reign. Literary men have striven with each other to see how much could be said in praise of the lady and of her reign. The period of reign has even been styled “The Victorian Age”—after the olden style; as for instance “The Augustan Age” was a term applied to the reign of Augustus Caesar.
We have great respect for the royal lady and great appreciation of the blessings of the past sixty years; but we are far from supposing that the latter were dependent upon the former. In the days of the Caesars one man could and did do much to impress his imperial character for good or for bad upon the art, the literature, the finances, the morals and everything pertaining to his reign. Hence there was a propriety in associating the ruler and the epoch as in the term,—”Augustan Age.” But this is not true to-day—especially not in Victoria. Indeed, the lady and the nation are to be congratulated that she did not attempt to stamp her personality and will upon the affairs of the great nation of which she is the nominal head and ruler, as William II. is evidently attempting to stamp his personality upon Germany.
Great credit is due Queen Victoria for not attempting to rule the British Empire in any particular. Contenting herself with being a figure-head of royalty, she has done the very best thing for these times, in leaving the rule, the government, wholly in the hands of Parliament, the representatives of the people;—so far as we recall not even once exercising royal prerogatives, of veto, etc. Any king on the same throne, who would have stamped no personality upon his epoch, would have been despised by his subjects as lacking character; but sex-chivalry permits that in the Queen non-intervention in the government and non-personality of reign shall be esteemed graces. Had a man been on the throne, all of his subjects would have insisted that he have some policy of his own, and among people like the English and Americans, as soon as it would be declared it would arouse those of different views as enemies and opponents. This would have led long ago either to imperialism and less liberty as in Germany, or else to a republican form of government, as in France and the United States.
No; the blessings of the past sixty years are not to be credited to kings and queens, nor to republics, but to God. As already pointed out in MILLENNIAL DAWN, the great prophetic period termed “The Day of His Preparation,” began in 1799 and will end with 1914: and it is the advancement of this “day” and the light which God provides, necessary for its work, that has brought the wonders of the present, and is rapidly now bringing on the conditions for the great time of trouble, for the overthrow of present imperfect conditions and the establishment of the Kingdom of God’s dear Son.
THE WEST POINT CHURCH
The permit to proceed with the construction of the Roman Catholic church on Government property contiguous to the West Point Military School has been cancelled. The question of the authority of the Secretary of War, under the constitution, was referred to Attorney General McKenna (a Roman Catholic) who, much to the disappointment of Roman Catholics, decided that the Secretary of War has no right to permit the erection of any building for sectarian purposes, at
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West Point. The Constitution certainly guards carefully against union of Church and State.
Many great Americans seem to have foreseen danger along this line. President Grant said,—”Keep Church and State forever separate.” President Jackson said,—”It is wicked and tyrannical to compel any man to support a religion in which he does not believe.” President Garfield said,—”The divorce between Church and State should be absolute.” Benjamin Franklin said,—”A religion that depends on the State for support is, for that reason, a bad religion.”
Nevertheless, we believe a practical union, or at least a cooperation, is approaching, the result of which will be injurious to religious sentiments not prominent, popular and influential.
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CHURCH UNION PROGRESSING
The English Church, having been rebuffed by the pope, is making progress with the Greek Church of Russia. We noted the attendance of the Bishop of London at the Czar’s coronation in full mediaeval regalia of gaudy robes, cap, mitre, pastoral staff, episcopal ring, etc., and later the visit of the Archbishop of York to Russia, presumably in the interest of union between the Greek and English churches. Now we notice that the Greek Church has sent the Archbishop of Finland to attend, as its representative, the ceremonies of the Queen’s Jubilee, and in addition to attend the Lambeth Conference, which meets shortly in the interest of Church Union.
As an olive-twig to the “Nonconformists,” as Protestants in general are designated in Great Britain, Rev. Dr. Barret was invited to and did “read the Scripture lesson” at the Jubilee Service. This, however, as some Churchmen point out, does not signify a recognition of nonconformist ministers as being duly ordained; for any “layman” might be called upon for that service under English Church rules.
Alas! how little the real ordination, the real ministry, the real union, and the real Church are understood;—how sadly and blindly all these questions are confused by the “Babylonians.”
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WHAT SAY THE SCRIPTURES ABOUT SPIRITISM?
—PROOFS THAT IT IS DEMONISM—CONTINUED—
MODERN SPIRITISM AND ITS TENDENCIES
The claim of Spiritists is that Spiritism is the new gospel which is shortly to revolutionize the world—socially, religiously, politically. But, as we have just seen, Spiritism, under various garbs, has long held possession of the world and borne bad fruit in every clime. It is nearly fifty years since the rapping and tipping manifestations first occurred, in Rochester, N.Y. (1848), and gave start to what is at present known in the United States as “Spiritualism.” It began with strange noises in a “haunted house” and first answered a little girl who addressed the unseen author of the noises as “Old Splithoof.” It had a rapid run of popularity, and judges, doctors, lawyers and ministers and hundreds of thousands of others speedily became its votaries, until its friends and its enemies claimed that its adherents numbered over ten millions. Believing in the consciousness of the dead, ignorant of the Scripture teachings on the subject of death and of their prohibition from holding communion with “mediums;” and very generally disbelieving in evil spirits, it is not surprising that intelligent men and women, having proved to their own satisfaction that supernatural powers were in their midst, as manifested by the rappings, tippings, slate-writings, answers to questions through mediums, clairvoyances, etc., should believe these invisible powers, which desire to converse with them, to be what they profess,—their deceased friends. Even allowing that there are certain tricks of legerdemain, and certain frauds along similar lines, we cannot wonder that intelligent people would believe their own senses in respect to instances which they had personally investigated.
As a result, for a time many of God’s people were in great danger, because of their failure to take heed to the sure Word of God’s testimony (the Bible) on this subject. Indeed, the personating spirits seem at first to have been very careful in all their references to the Bible, sometimes advising the religious ones who attended seances to do more reading of the Bible, more praying, etc. But this was only to allay their suspicions and fears and to get them more fully under their influence. Gradually the teachings became more and more lax, and the student was given to understand that the Bible was better than nothing to the uninitiated world, but to those who had come to have intercourse with the spirits direct, the Bible was useless,—and worse, a hindrance.
Well has an able writer upon the subject said of Spiritism,—
“A system which commences with light, innocent, trifling and frivolous performances and communications, but which ends in leading its followers to deny “the Lord that bought them,” and to reject the Word of God which liveth and abideth forever, gives
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evidence that there may be a deep purpose under all its fantastic tricks; and that the craft of the Old Serpent, who is a liar from the beginning, may underlie those trifling and unimportant communications which, by stimulating curiosity and inspiring confidence, lull to slumber the suspicious of honest but undiscerning souls, until they are in the fatal coils of the Enemy of all righteousness.”
These demons who personate the dead, seeing that a new dispensation is opening, were prompt to apply their knowledge as far as possible to the advancement of their own cause, and freely declared a new dispensation at hand, and Spiritism the guiding angel which was to lead mankind safely into it; and they have not hesitated to declare that the new dispensation means the utter wreck of the present social order, and the establishment of Spiritism as the new order. In some instances, where they thought it would serve their purpose, they have not hesitated to declare the second coming of Christ, and on one occasion at least it was distinctly stated that Christ had come a second time: and it was intimated that they were ready if any one chose to grant communication with Christ through the medium.
Many of God’s people have been saved from being ensnared into this great evil, by what we might term their own spiritual sense, by which they discerned that there was something in connection with Spiritism quite at variance with the spirit of our Lord and the sentiments of his Word. We may safely conclude, however, on the strength of the Lord’s promise, that none of the fully consecrated—the “elect” are suffered to be fully ensnared.—Matt. 24:24.
The strongly marked tendency of Spiritism toward free-loveism served to bring it into general disrepute amongst the pure minded, who concluded that, if the influence of the dead was properly represented in some living advocates of Spiritism,—then the social conditions beyond the vale of death must be much worse, much more impure, than they are in the present life, instead of much better, as these demon spirits claim.
We could make voluminous quotations from Spiritist writings, proving that it totally denies the Bible, and that it is in direct opposition to its teachings; that it has denied the very existence of God, teaching instead merely a good principle, and that every man is a god. It denies the atonement and the Lordship of Christ, while it claims that he was a spirit-medium of low degree; and furthermore, abundant testimony could be quoted from prominent Spiritists proving that the tendencies of Spiritism are extremely demoralizing. We will content ourselves with one.
Here is the testimony of J. F. Whitney, editor of the Pathfinder (N.Y.). Having been a warm and evidently an honest defender and advocate of Spiritism for a long time and well acquainted with its devotees, his is a testimony hard to impeach. He says:—
“Now, after a long and constant watchfulness, seeing for months and years its progress and its practical workings upon its devotees, its believers, and its mediums, we are compelled to speak our honest conviction, which is, that the manifestations coming through the acknowledged mediums, who are designated as rapping, tipping, writing and entrance mediums, have a baneful influence upon believers, and create discord and confusion; that the generality of these teachings inculcate false ideas, approve of selfish individual acts, and endorse theories and principles which, when carried out, debase and make man little better than the brute. These are among the fruits of modern Spiritualism. …
“Seeing, as we have, the gradual progress it makes with its believers, particularly its mediums, from lives of morality to those of sensuality and immortality, gradually and cautiously undermining the foundation of good principles, we look back with amazement to the radical change which a few months will bring about in individuals; for its tendency is to approve and endorse each individual act and character, however good or bad these acts may be.”
He concludes by saying—”We desire to send forth our warning voice, and if our humble position, as the head of a public journal, our known [former] advocacy of Spiritualism, our experience, and the conspicuous part we have played among its believers, the honesty and fearlessness with which we have defended the subject, will weigh anything in our favor, we desire that our opinions may be received, and those who are moving passively down the rushing rapids to destruction, should pause, ere it be too late, and save themselves from the blasting influence which those manifestations are causing.”
So bold and outspokenly immoral did some of the prominent representatives of Spiritism become, especially the female mediums (and most of its mediums are females) that the moral sense of civilization was shocked; and for a time demonism under the name of “Spiritualism” languished. Now that its past is measurably forgotten or denied, it is reviving, but along somewhat different lines. The new method seems to be to have less tipping and rapping and fewer special
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mediums, or rather to make of each believer a medium, by the use of mechanical appliances. Indeed, almost all who become investigators are assured that they would make excellent mediums: this flattery is no doubt intended to lure them on; the ability to do “wonders” having a great fascination, especially for people of naturally mediocre talents. Nor is the statement untrue: none but idiots are so stupid or so ignorant that they cannot be used as mediums; and they may become powerful mediums in proportion as they yield themselves obediently to the “control” of these “seducing spirits” and their “doctrines of devils (See 1 Tim. 4:1) and are “led captive” by Satan at his will.—2 Tim. 2:26.
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The term “seducing spirits” exactly fits the case. From amusement of curiosity and answering of questions, sometimes quite truthfully, they proceed to gain the confidence of their victims, and in a plausible manner to break down the will power and make slaves of them. Then they tyrannize in a most diabolical manner, leading into excesses of various kinds. Should conscience rebel or an attempt be made to get free from this slavery, all reserve is cast aside and the victim is taunted with his fall, persuaded that there is no hope for him, and that his only future pleasure must be in diabolism—Scriptures being skillfully quoted and cited to apparently prove this.
A case of this kind came under the writer’s observation in 1895. A gentleman who had occasionally attended on preaching asked that an interview be granted his sister whom he would bring from Cleveland for the purpose. She was, he said, laboring under the delusion that she had committed the unpardonable sin, and he hoped we could disabuse her mind of the thought which sometimes made her “wild.” We consented, and she came. She conversed rationally enough but assured us that her case was hopeless. We explained the Scriptures relating to the “Sin unto death” and endeavored to show her that she had never had sufficient light to come under its conditions, but we could make no headway. She declared that she had been in a salvable condition once, but was so no longer.
She told us how she had met in California a man who had a familiar spirit and occult powers: at first disbelieving, she afterward became his co-worker in “mysteries” resembling witchcraft, and had finally inveigled and injured a dear female friend. Since then remorse had seized her, and she had been tortured and at times frenzied and hope had forever fled. Before she left us she seemed comforted a little by what we told her of divine compassion and the abundant provision made in the great ransom for all given at Calvary. But we have heard since that she lost hope again and has been placed in an asylum to hinder her from taking her own life. She could not be trusted alone: she would attempt to throw herself headlong from a window, or while quietly walking the street would attempt to throw herself under passing vehicles;—reminding us of the case mentioned in Mark 9:22. We have regretted, since, that instead of merely reasoning with the poor woman we did not, also, in the name of the Lord, exorcise the evil spirit which evidently possessed her; or, failing to cast it out, at least have instructed and helped her to exercise her will power to resist the demon.
There are good spirits, as the Scriptures freely declare; and these holy angels are charged with the care of all who are fully consecrated to the Lord. These, however, do not operate in darkness, nor through “mediums,” and have better employment than tipping tables, rapping out answers to foolish questions and entertaining humanity. “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” (Heb. 1:14.) There is no warrant, however, for seeking or expecting communications from these holy guardian angels: God’s will being that his “elect” shall walk by faith and not by unusual manifestations or sights or sounds. To this end he has prepared his Word as a storehouse of knowledge from which his faithful shall be supplied with “meat in due season:” and he declares it to be sufficient that the man of God may be thoroughly furnished unto every good work.—2 Tim. 3:17.
Furthermore, it may be set down as a sure sign of evil (either germinating or developed), for any one to attempt to get control of the will and mind of another—as in mesmerism, spirit-mediumship, hypnotism and the like. The Lord respects our individuality and appeals to it, and urges our self-control in harmony with the principles of righteousness laid down in his Word. But Spiritism asks an abandonment of self-control in favor of spirit control. No one of ordinary prudence would dare to give up the use and control of his mind and will to fellow men, much less to unseen powers which merely profess to be good and great and wise. No Christian who has the slightest confidence in the Bible as the inspired Word of God should submit himself to these influences as a “medium,” or even become an “investigator” of that concerning which God’s Word has given us so explicit warnings—that it is a way that leads from God and righteousness to sin, and ruin, mental, moral and physical.
One of the simple modern devices for awakening interest and leading on to fuller “mediumship,” “possession” and “control,” is described in a letter just received, dated March 11, ’97, from a Christian lady, a school teacher in Georgia, and a deeply interested student of God’s plan of the ages. The writer says:—
“I have been having a rather strange and perhaps unwise experience lately. My husband’s brother is a Spiritualist, takes the Progressive (?) Thinker and is thoroughly imbued with its teachings, and, when I visit there, he reads articles from it and asks my opinion concerning them; especially those from persons claiming to have received messages from ‘departed friends’ through the aid of the mediums. Now I never have thought it ‘all humbug’ as many do, tho there is much fraud connected with it—for it seems to me that the Bible plainly teaches that spirits have had, and will have, the power to communicate with men. I have told him that I believed those communications came from fallen angels who personated the dead for the purpose of deceiving men into believing Satan’s old lie, “Thou shalt not surely die.” But as my brother-in-law
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does not accept the Bible as the Word of God, my opinion had little weight with him. His wife (who is a firm believer in DAWN) is much troubled over his belief; and both have found their difference of opinion any thing but pleasant, tho his wife avoids the subject as much as possible with fidelity to the truth. Some time ago he bought a Psychograph, an instrument used by mediums for communing with spirits, but he could not use it.
“A few days ago it was placed in my hands, and, as I found I was a medium, I resolved to “try the spirits.” [This is a misapplication of Scripture, as shown later. EDITOR.] About the first thing it said to me was that there is a valuable gold mine on our place: that did not surprise me, as we had been told that a “vein” had been traced across the place. It described the exact location to dig for it; said it is only 7-1/2 feet below the surface. So that will not be difficult to prove. Then it gave me some Scripture messages, Col. 1:4,5 and 2:4. I asked what was meant by “enticing words” and was answered, Bellamy, Christian Science, Spiritualism, Ingersolism, etc. I asked who was talking, and was told Epaphras. That did not seem to please my brother-in-law very much, and he said he would like to hear from some one we had known in the flesh, so I asked if such an one were present, and was told, “Yes, Eastman” (a stranger to me, but my brother-in-law and his wife, who alone were present, were both acquainted with him). When asked what he wished to say he cited us to Titus 3:5, said MILLENNIAL DAWN doctrine is true, and that his wealth had hindered him from gaining the prize of the high calling. I, said Eastman, was not thought a very good Christian, tho a member of the church.
“The next day I tried the wheel or Psychograph again, and was told that a dear good friend of mine who had lived in speaking distance of me for several years was talking to me. She asked me to write to her husband and tell him, that she said, a certain boy (giving name) was having a bad influence over their boy. She told me that my husband (who is in Florida) was hurt and was very lame, and I got a letter from him day before yesterday confirming it. She said she regretted that she had not given DAWN the attention that I had wished her to, that she had life on the angelic plane; she also told me of the “mine.” I asked did she know the one claiming to be Eastman, and she said yes, that it was a deceiving spirit personating him, and that I would best not make use of the means through which I could receive such communications. One claiming to be Cephas cited me to the first chapter of Daniel. Another, claiming to be my father, said in substance the same. All said the same about the gold “mine,” and all professed to believe in Christ and that DAWN is a correct exponent of God’s Word, and told me that I was failing to make the best use of one of my “gifts”—teaching; that I should teach publicly as well as individuals, but was cautioned with 1 Cor. 3:7 and Eph. 4:2.
“During the little time I experimented with the instrument I was told many things (a few of which were not true) that would take too much of your time to tell you; and several of the “spirits claimed that they would heal the sick through me, if I would only trust them. A great deal of Scripture was given, and all very appropriate to those for whom it was given; but the Devil quoted Scripture to Christ; and I still think the same as I did before “trying the spirits,”—only I was not sure that fallen angels would admit, even for
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the purpose of deceiving, that Christ had “come in the flesh;” but it seems now they will. Probably 1 John 4:1-3 refers to doctrines of men wholly. Of course, it would be possible for those who shall have “part in the first resurrection” to speak through such a device, but is it probable that they will? I will be glad to hear from you on this subject.
[That passage has reference to men,—doctrines among men. It may be remarked here that the evil spirits not only have knowledge of present events, but, by some power can frequently closely approximate the future. In one instance under our notice two deaths within a year were foretold: one of the parties died, the other became seriously ill, but recovered. Some power is in Satan’s hand, but with limitations. Compare Heb. 2:14; Psa. 97:10; 116:15 and Job 2:3-6.—EDITOR.]
“What experience I have had tends to confirm your teaching—that the communications are from the fallen angels. They are very unreliable. One can but feel how impossible it will be in these closing days of the Gospel age for any one to “stand” who has not a firm foundation for faith.” —————.
Here is an illustration of the insidious methods of these demons. Like Satan and the evil spirits of our Lord’s day, they will confess Christ and the truth. Similarly, the woman “possessed” followed Paul and Silas several days saying truly (Acts 16:16-18), “These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation.” But for that matter, abundant evidence could be adduced that they would confirm and approve almost any doctrine or theory held precious by the inquirer in order to gain his confidence, and thus a fuller power over him.
Respecting the “mine,”—that is a bait to draw and hold the interest. It is questionable whether the fallen angels can see deeper into the earth than can mankind. Of course, it might happen that the gold in paying quantities might be found on any of the gold-bearing veins of Georgia, but the experiences of miners in general and of drillers for petroleum who have been “directed by spirits,” or who have used “divining rods,” has been that, in the end, they lost money by following such directions. The presumption must therefore be that, if the “lying spirits” are not deceiving by misrepresenting themselves as possessing knowledge when they have none, then the same malevolence which leads them as “seducing spirits” to lure mankind to moral and mental wreck, leads them to take pleasure in misleading them to financial wreck. Lying spirits, like lying men, are not to be believed or trusted under any circumstances.
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Concerning the advice to “teach”: coming from such a quarter, it should rather incline us to fear that the demons saw in the Sister a weakness in that direction from which she would be most easily assailable. It is safe to conclude in advance that their advice is either directly or indirectly intended to do us harm. And notice the cunning which sought to guard against suspicion by quoting texts cautioning to humility!
True, the people need instruction, and all instructors are “teachers;” but it is very unsafe for anyone to think of himself or herself as a teacher. The preferable plan, by far, is for each to be a pupil in the school of Christ the great Teacher; and to be ready to learn of him through any channel, or to be used by him in helping to make plain to others his teachings. Each one who learns anything of the Lord should tell it to others, not as his own wisdom and teaching, but the Lord’s, and himself merely the channel which gladly passes the water of life on to others. No wonder the holy spirit cautions us, “Be not many of you teachers, my brethren, knowing that we [teachers] shall have the greater judgment [or severer trial].”—James 3:1.
With the thought of teaching others is closely associated the thought of superior wisdom; and from the first this has been Satan’s bait. To mother Eve his promise as the reward of disobedience was, “Ye shall be [wise] as gods.” And the temptation to her was that she perceived from his arguments that the forbidden fruit was desirable “to make one wise.” Alas, the wisdom which Satan gives is very undesirable. It is “ earthly,  sensual,  devilish;” as many, too late, have discovered. But on the contrary, “the wisdom which cometh down from above is first pure, then  peaceable,  gentle,  easy to be entreated,  full of mercy and good fruits,  without partiality and without hypocrisy.” (Jas. 3:15-17.) No wonder the inspired Apostle said, “I fear lest by any means as the serpent beguiled Eve, by subtilty [cunning], so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity [purity] that is in Christ.” (2 Cor. 11:3.) Let us therefore lose no opportunity for telling the “good tidings of great joy;”—but let us lose sight of ourselves as teachers and point all, as brethren and fellow-pilgrims, to the words and example of the great Teacher and of the twelve inspired apostles whom he appointed as our instructors, our teachers.
We advised the Sister further, that it was very unwise to disobey the divine instructions (Isa. 8:19,20) by having anything whatever to do with these “seducing spirits.” These are not the spirits which we are to “try” “whether they be of God,” for God has already forewarned us that they are not of him, but that they are “wicked spirits.” As well might we use the Apostle’s words as an excuse for trying all the various brands of intoxicating spirits to see if one could be found which would not make drunk. These “familiar,” wicked spirits claim, that they are numerous, a “legion” possessing one man: they would ask no more than that humanity should “try” them all. A fair trial or “test” is just what they request and they succeed sooner or later in enslaving most of those who test them.
In the passage which says, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they be of God” (1 John 4:1-6), the word spirits is used in the sense of teaching or doctrine and has no reference to spirit beings. This is shown by the verses following, which declare that we are to “try” or discern between “the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” And this may be quickly done, for all false doctrines either directly or indirectly deny that “Christ died for our sins;” that “the man Christ Jesus gave himself a ransom for all.”
Assuredly we should not expect that the Lord, nor any in harmony with him, will ever make use of methods which the “lying spirits” use and which God in his Word has condemned and forbidden. To do so would expose God’s people to all the “wiles of the devil.”
The Sister sent us an advertisement of the Psychograph which says,—
“Do you wish to investigate Spiritualism? Do you wish to develop Mediumship? Do you desire to receive communications? The psychograph is an invaluable assistant. Many, who were not aware of their mediumistic gift, have, after a few sittings, been able to receive delightful messages. Many, who began with it as an amusing toy, found that the intelligence controlling it knew more than themselves, and became converts to Spiritualism.”
Thus does Satan now make use of the belief common to all denominations of Christians as well as heathendom, that the dead are not dead but are angels hovering round us; and what is more calculated to “seduce” them than just such a toy?
By the same mail came the samples of The Progressive Thinker,—a Spiritualist organ of the most pronounced type. We examined it, having in view matter for this article, and to our surprise found that several of its leading articles freely conceded that the vast majority of the communicating spirits are evil spirits which seek influence over human beings in order to work their ruin: and if possible to get possession of them to make them crazy. It told of written communications dropped into a room signed “Beelzebub” and “Devil.” In one column under the caption “A Critical Study of Obsession,” was an account of a poor woman who had been so beset by evil spirits that she was sent to an Insane Asylum and who finally got rid of their torments; and it gives her statement, “I prayed
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them away.” Asked, “To whom did you pray?” her recorded answer is, “To the Ever-living God. He only can answer prayer.” And yet in another column God’s name is blasphemed, under the caption, “Peter and Paul,” from which we quote these words—”Moses, who tho said to be learned in all the Egyptian skill, was the very meanest of men, and for his God erroneously took Jehovah, a departed spirit of an Egyptian disappointed aspirant to some lucrative or ecclesiastical office.”
In the same issue (April 3, ’97), under the heading—”Thoughts Illustrating the Status of Spiritualism, and the Dangers that Beset the Honest Investigator,” by Charles Dawbran, we have a notice of a book by an English Clergyman, entitled “The Great Secret or the Modern Mystery of Spiritualism.” Introducing the author the article says:—
“His experiences commenced with the development of his wife as a writing medium, through whom, from time to time, he received such tests as delight the heart of the worshiper of phenomena. He also seems to have made the acquaintance of almost every public medium who has at any time been high priest or priestess of the Occult, to the worthy citizens of London. And he has apparently been a welcomed visitor to the homes and seances of every distinguished investigator or full fledged believer in that city during the forty years of which he writes. He has included hypnotism in his investigations, and has been successful both as operator and subject. He has even dabbled a little in ‘Black Magic,’ at least sufficient to prove it a dread reality. So we have in this author a man most unusually qualified to deal intelligently with the subject.
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That he is now, and has for almost all these years been a believer is evident, for he narrates incidents and proofs which would carry conviction to every intelligent and unprejudiced mind. But his trouble has been that of every experienced investigator. He has not only witnessed much phenomena that could be explained as due to the normal or abnormal powers of the mortal, but where there has been an evident ‘ghost’ at work, mistakes, and at times evident fraud, have troubled his ecclesiastical soul.
“So we have little but the usual mixed experiences of the average intelligent investigator. A grain of wheat to a bushel of chaff is claimed by the Spiritualist as abundant compensation for the toil and trouble of long years of waiting upon the ‘dear spirits.’ And to some minds perhaps it is. But to others there have ever been fierce attempts to increase the crop of truth. And it is herein that the experiences of this clergyman become interesting to every truth-lover the world over. He, as we have said, has had abundant experience in both public and private seances, but his pathway to progress seemed blocked. He was just as liable to the usual imperfections of spirit intercourse after many years of such investigation, as in the very first sittings with his own wife and a few chosen friends.
“So the question became: ‘Is progress possible?’ And to solve this he tried an experiment which inspires the present writer to call this attention to his book. For as we have seen, the rest was what almost everybody can endorse, and say ‘me too.’ He determined to seek spirit intercourse from the highest plane possible to the mortal, so that if there be truth to the maxim ‘like to like’ he might attract the very highest, and repel those who come from the unseen to trouble and perplex weary mortals. He devoted a house to that purpose. Not merely were there rooms for use by mediums and circles of investigators or believers, but a chapel was prepared where he himself conducted a religious service twice a week, and it was at the conclusion of this service that a special seance was held by the believers present. The surroundings were most solemn. Frivolity was conspicuous only by its absence. The spirits had promised great results. For over a year at one time, and for months at others, these meetings were continued. But no promise was fulfilled. Prayers to God for light and truth proved no more efficacious than the eternal ‘Nearer my God to thee’ of the usual public seance, with its miscellaneous crowd.
“So our poor clergyman has his one grain of wheat after forty years of honest attempt to make at least a pint of it. He clings to that atom of truth with his whole soul, but his earnest attempt at progress has proved a life-long failure, altho, apparently, every condition was favorable to success. Since such is the experience of the thousands, once zealous, who have become ‘silent’ believers from the same cause, we may well ask: Is modern Spiritualism fixed and bounded like the theological systems of the past and present? Is there no hope of solving its problems, overcoming its barriers, and reaching a higher manhood on this side of the life line? Is the honest and convinced investigator presently to become discouraged, almost as a matter of course?”
The claim made by Spiritists is that good spirits commune with good people, and evil spirits with evil people is thus disproved. Could stronger testimony than this be produced in evidence that all spirit communications are from evil spirits and are wholly unreliable? The writer, further on in the same Spiritist journal, gives the following account of the experiences of another “believer,” for which he vouches:—
“For a score of years he had been true to his convictions, endeavoring to reduce all belief to a basis of provable facts. His own sensitiveness permitted spirit approach, and sometimes the heavens had seemed to open to shower blessings on his soul. But foes came as readily as friends whenever the gate was ajar, so that, for the most part, safety compelled him to avoid personal experience of spirit return. The active mind offers poor foothold to any spirit, so he accepted public office and labored zealously for the public weal. But at intervals the experiences reappeared, and it seemed as if the battle had to be fought all over again. He failed to find a direct cause which might account for the presence of his foes. But they seemed to have certain gathering points. For instance, he could rarely visit a public library to select a book but that he would be followed and annoyed for hours by some “invisible,” seeking to control him. It is true, each battle, when fought to victory, was usually followed by a brief and happy re-union with angel friends, but the sense of
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danger made him only the more earnest to close the door to all spirit return. His method of fighting off the influence was to resolutely fix his mind on some matter of interest in his daily affairs. And this would, sooner or later, prove successful every time. Any attempt to gain help from the spirit side of life only seemed to give added power to the foe.”
This man had evidently progressed in Spiritism so that he had become a “clairaudient medium.” The supposed good spirits or “angel friends” which sometimes visited him were merely the same evil spirits called by the writer “foes;” but they transformed themselves to his mind by assuming an opposite attitude when they found him getting away from their influence;—to keep him from abandoning them altogether, and in hope that by and by they would get such an influence over him that escape would be impossible.
From the same journal, under the heading, “Incidents With Good Advice,” after giving two cases of pronounced insanity, the direct result of “spirit control,” we find the following advice:—
“The lesson I would draw is this: Never sit alone, if there is the least probability of the controls overcoming one’s judgment. Even though their intentions may be good, as in Mr. B.’s case; yet their experience has been insufficient with regard to the management of mediums, and their operations may become very injudicious. Never permit a control to cause you to do that which your judgment cannot sanction, no matter under what promise it is given. Only evil designing controls are liable to resort to such measures.
“These cases call to mind the thought that undoubtedly there are many others in the asylums, who are simply the victims of control. I could cite another case, where during her first confinement, a young woman was given chloroform and other treatment which weakened her system to such an extent that a degraded spirit took hold of her organism, and the language he made that previously moral girl use, was deplorable. Under these conditions she was committed to the asylum, where she is at present and at last reports was, at times, able to control her body, and, of course, at those times she was considered ‘rational’ by the authorities.
“Let all Spiritualists be sure to caution persons who are beginning their investigation by sitting alone to be very careful—and to make a regular practice of reporting, so that those of experience may know what is taking place and advise accordingly. And further, let us make a practice of looking into all cases of so-called ‘insanity’ before they are sent to the asylums; perchance it may be a case like those I have cited.”
A “strong delusion,” an “energy of Satan” truly Spiritism is, when people with all these evidences before them still return to it time and again, even after being injured,—as do the once singed summer moths to the deadly glare that fascinates them. There is a dense darkness in the world to-day upon divine truth; and thinking people, when awakened from the stupor which has so long benumbed their reasoning faculties, as respects religion, cry out for “Light, more Light;” and if they do not get the true Light of the knowledge of God (which shines only for the honest and consecrated believer in the ransom), they are ready for the false lights with which “the god of this world,” Satan, seeks to ensnare all—Higher Criticism otherwise called Agnosticism, or Spiritism, or Christian Science, or Theosophy. These, if it were possible, would deceive the very elect; and are well represented as being Satan’s ministers transformed as angels of light.
—(TO BE CONTINUED)—
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PAUL A PRISONER AT PHILIPPI
—JULY 11.—ACTS 16:22-34.—
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”—Acts 16:31.
ALTHO, as we have seen, Paul and his company were divinely directed into Europe, his early experiences there would have led many others to think that there was some mistake respecting the matter,—some misdirection; for he had not been long in the new field of labor until he was imprisoned. The Apostle, however, knew to expect just such experiences, and realized himself in the hands of one who was both able and willing to make all things work together for good to his servants. The imprisonment was of the Evil One and his deluded servants, and was permitted of God as a means for contrasting the spirit of the truth with the spirit of error, and of bringing the gospel particularly to the attention of the jailor.
The circumstances which led to the imprisonment are interesting and instructive. Satan then, as previously and since, used spirit manifestations to delude the people. A young woman was the spirit medium through which the demons (fallen angels) operated, personating the dead, and delivering messages purporting
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to be from them, to those who paid liberally for the service. Apparently, the revenues from this
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source were very large, for the woman was owned and controlled by a company or syndicate, and “brought her masters much gain.”
It is perhaps difficult for us to determine the motives which prompted the evil spirits to move the medium to cry after Paul and Silas, “These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation.” These evil spirits, however, were similarly moved on several occasions to confess our Lord Jesus Christ. (Mark 1:24,34.) The Apostle endured this testimony for several days, but finally expelled the evil spirits; probably through sympathy for the woman, as well as from a realization that if thus permitted the evil spirits might claim some collusion as between themselves and the Apostle, and so after his departure might have an improper influence upon those who would receive the gospel of Christ.
Wealth always has been a power. It is not surprising, therefore, that the syndicate of worldly men who were making much gain through this spirit medium, angered by the wanton destruction of the value of their property, as they would regard the matter, and realizing the loss of all their future profits from this source, would feel disposed to inflict some kind of retribution upon those who had been the cause of their misfortune. And their wealth had power with the magistrate who, similarly blinded, did not recognize that a good work had been done in liberating a fellow-creature from the power of the devil, and thus stopping one avenue of evil influence and deception. The Apostle, as a shrewd man, probably knew to expect some such results; otherwise we may suppose that he would have rebuked the evil spirit on the first day. He probably took the time to think and pray over the matter, and to ascertain the Lord’s will before putting himself and the interests of the cause in jeopardy. We may be sure that he was guided in this matter for good, the Lord probably wishing to bring the gospel message to the jailor.
The charges brought against Paul and Silas are worthy of note as indicating the cunning of the syndicate owning the medium. When Paul and Silas were dragged to the public square, where trials were conducted, the charge brought against them was not that they had wrecked the financial interests of the syndicate by the exercise of a spirit more powerful than that which possessed their medium, for such a charge would have had no weight under the laws of the Romans; but taking advantage of the fact that the Roman law, while tolerant of all religions, made it a criminal offense to attempt to proselyte a Roman, they made their charges along this line, claiming that Paul and Silas were Jews, who were endeavoring to proselyte Romans. This charge had some foundation in fact, for of course the brethren were there for the very purpose of converting Jews, Greeks and Romans to Christ. On this charge they were adjudged guilty, and the masses taking sides against them, the magistrates made the penalties the more severe. They were beaten in public, and then put into the inner prison and their feet made fast in the stocks.
With many, such treatment, and the fact that God permitted it, would have brought discouragement, and they would consequently have chosen some less hazardous calling in life; but these servants of God were true soldiers of the cross, who had enlisted for life, realizing that they were called upon “to endure hardness as good soldiers of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Instead of bemoaning their lot and wishing they had never enlisted in the Lord’s service, or thinking of how they could withdraw from it, these noble men, on the contrary, rejoiced and thanked God that they were accounted worthy to suffer in his name and for his cause. While not disposed to be obtrusive with their prayers and praises, they evidently felt that it would be proper that their fellow prisoners who would know something of their treatment, should know something also of how they received it, and of the grace of God which sustained them. No such prisoners had ever been there before, and never before had that prison been a Bethel, a house of God, a gate of Heaven. As the Apostles prayed their strength of heart and fervency of spirit increased until they broke forth in songs of thankfulness, gratitude and praise to the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Heathen religions have holy books, and prayers, and occasional mournful chants by their priests or priestesses, but they have no singing of hymns in worship. These seem to have been confined first, to the Jews, and secondly, to their successors in grace, Christians; but now, alas! they are taken up by all classes, and some times prostituted to the uses of Mormonism, Christian Science, Spiritism, Theosophy, etc.
How greatly this conduct of Paul and Silas differs from the recorded conduct and sentiments of some of the greatest and most notable and most stoical on the pages of history. Of Ovid, the famed poet and philosopher, it is declared—”There is scarcely one of his many letters which he wrote during his short exile, which is not full of unmanly lamentations.” Of Seneca, a noted writer of Paul’s day, it is written that his books were “full of most sounding professions of stoic superiority to passion and pain, yet, when exiled, he broke into abject complaint.” Similar things are said concerning Cicero, and Napoleon Bonaparte is another example. Yet all these men, even in their exile, were surrounded by wealth and luxury: but here we have before us two men who had forsaken all for the privilege
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of being God’s ambassadors, representatives of Christ, suffering to bear the message of divine grace to the sin-blinded and unthankful;—yet under most distressing circumstances, with their backs lacerated from the beating, with their feet in the stocks, and their whole bodies therefore pained and uncomfortable, with seemingly no cause for thankfulness that the worldly could discern, they were filled with love and gratitude to God, and their hearts overflowed in songs of praise. Surely they were actuated by super-human hopes and joys!
Nor were they the only ones upon whom the truth and the holy spirit of the truth has had such an influence. We remember many martyrs who likewise “endured as seeing him who is invisible.” We think of Daniel praying in the lion’s den and answering the king in a cheerful voice, “The God whom I serve hath sent his angel and shut the lion’s mouth.” We remember the three Hebrew captives, who, because of faithfulness to God, were cast into the fiery furnace; and who there had the presence with them of one in appearance like the Son of Man. We remember Bunyan, who, while in Bedford jail, England, for faithfulness to the truth, not only prayed to God, but figuratively sang his praises, as represented in his remarkable work—Pilgrim’s Progress. We remember also King David of old, some of whose most expressive and impressive Psalms were written in hours of distress, when the Lord upheld him. Madam Guyon, while imprisoned in the Castle Vincennes (1695), wrote songs and sang them in praise to God. Writing of it subsequently she said, “It sometimes seems to me as if I were a little bird, whom the Lord had placed in a cage, and that I had nothing now to do but to sing. The joy of my heart gave brightness to the objects around me. The stones of my prison looked to my eyes like rubies.” In prison she wrote:—
“A little bird I am, shut from the fields of air; And in my songs I sit and sing to him who placed me there: Well pleased a prisoner thus to be, because, my God, it pleaseth thee. My cage confines me round,—abroad I cannot flee; But though my wing is closely bound, my heart’s at liberty. My prison walls cannot control the flight, the freedom of my soul.”
Thank God, the days of beating and imprisonment for Christ’s sake are no more; but there are still opportunities for the development and exercise of the spirit of sacrifice by all who are faithful followers in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus; there are social smitings and ostracisms for the truth’s sake, which can be borne with rejoicing to such an extent that the smart is scarcely felt. There are times when the Lord permits our financial conditions to become almost a gloomy prison as viewed from the natural standpoint,—times when responsibilities or sicknesses may shut us in as prisoners; but under such circumstances the faithful are able to realize the Lord’s favor and mercy; they find many blessings to recount and their hearts overflow with thankful gratitude and praise, so that all who come in contact with them take knowledge of them, as they did of the Apostles, “that they have been with Jesus and learned of him.”
The Lord’s response to the faith, prayers and praise of his servants, by an earthquake, is of course out of the ordinary course of his providences; but the case was an extraordinary one. These were extraordinary servants, the work given them to do in establishing the Church was an extraordinary work. And evidently something extraordinary was needed in the case of the jailor, who, though an honest and well disposed man, was not expecting any blessing of religious instruction from the prisoner under his care: yet, as soon as he grasped the situation he became as teachable as a child at the feet of his prisoners, inquiring the way to eternal life. It is worthy of note that the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ has little effect upon any who receive it otherwise than in meekness: those who oppose themselves and fight the truth at every step are not of the kind, nor in the condition to be blessed by it: hence the Lord’s instruction to “preach the gospel to the meek.
The gist of the apostle’s instructions is summed up in our golden text,—”Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ”—the significance of which is very comprehensive.
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It implies not only mental assent to the fact that Christ died for our sins and arose for our justification, but also a reception of these truths into the heart and into the life of the believers; so that thenceforth he may realize that he is not his own, but bought with a price, even the precious blood of Christ; that he belongs to him and should willingly submit in every matter to his guidance and direction.
The Apostle did not tell the jailor and his family that they must seek the Lord’s favor and forgiveness for several weeks, in prayer at a mourner’s bench, or otherwise; but, on the contrary, that they should simply and at once believe the facts as preached to them, and at once start a consecrated life in harmony therewith. And all this faith and consecration was at once confessed and professed by the jailor and his family when they were immersed.
Meantime, we can imagine with what tenderness and gratitude to God the jailor washed the wounds of his remarkable prisoners; and recognizing them as the servants and representatives of the Lord he entertained them with the best his house afforded. A proper appreciation of God and his goodness always leads to an appreciation of the servants and instruments which God is pleased to use in bringing blessings to us.
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CUMBERED WITH MUCH SERVING
“So busy, O so busy,” is the cry on every side, “There’s much to do, and workers few, while on the moments glide;” And weary hearts are fainting oft’ beneath their load of care; And willing hands have grown too weak the burden’s weight to bear.
“No time to rest, no time to wait for strength to be renewed, No time to tarry till the soul with power is endued; The tasks increasing every day, this life so near its close; We cannot rest,” the toilers cry, “until death brings repose!”
O burdened hearts, can it be true this is the Master’s will? Are you to labor every hour and never to be still? These vessels are so very small, our cups will not run o’er Unless we seek the fountain’s brink for filling more and more.
Take time to sit at Jesus’ feet and hear his blessed Word; Wait there, like Mary, till your soul to love’s best deed is stirred; Then break the alabaster box, and let its perfume sweet Spread with the gospel’s joyful sound, and make the earth replete!
O be not cumbered with much care,—they serve who only wait; The Lord’s command, “Go thou and work,” will never come too late. His truth must burn within your soul e’er you a task begin: For we must know our captain’s will if faith’s good fight we win.
Then come apart each weary one into a place of rest,—The flesh so weak must often seek the Rock and Shadow blest; There tarry in that silence sweet till freed from every care, And you arise, with strength renewed, for him to do and dare.
—F. G. Burroughs.
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THE GOSPEL TO THE NOBLE AND TO THE MORE NOBLE
—JULY 18.—ACTS 17:1-12.—
“They received the Word with all readiness of mind and searched the Scriptures daily.”—Acts 17:11.
LEAVING Philippi at the request of the magistrates, and for the sake of peace, not insisting upon his rights as a Roman citizen, Paul with Silas and Timothy proceeded westward, leaving Luke with the believers at Philippi for the further establishment of the believers in the truth. Their next stop was at the city of Thessalonica, the capital of Macedonia. They were seeking cities where there were considerable numbers of Jews, knowing that they would be the best prepared to understand the gospel and to accept it. One of the attractions at Thessalonica was a large synagogue: and it was to the Jews, as usual, that the Apostle first addressed himself.
It is worthy of note that the Apostle’s manner was not that of a “ranter,” but of a logical and connected reasoner: his proofs were brought from the Old Testament Scriptures; and the correspondence between these testimonies concerning Messiah, given of God through the prophets, with the facts and circumstances of our Lord’s ministry and death were logically set forth. And no doubt all his hearers had some knowledge of the matters which had transpired in Jerusalem; for representatives undoubtedly went every year to Jerusalem, to the Passover. The reports which reached them had no doubt all been from the prejudiced Jewish side of the matter, leading them to believe that, while Jesus was a good man who performed many wonderful works, he was nevertheless an impostor, possessed of a devil, a false Messiah, etc. The Apostle’s work, then, was largely to correct these misapprehensions, and to show that the very things which they had heard respecting the ignominious death of Jesus were all parts of the divine plan, that fitted perfectly to the previous testimony of the prophets. He proved to them that Messiah must of necessity have died as the Redeemer, before he could justly dispense divine mercy and forgiveness to any. And then, he showed that all these things had been accurately and properly fulfilled in the experiences of Jesus.
As usual, wherever the true gospel went, the result was a division; and the same is true to-day.
So our Lord foretold, saying, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” The sword of the spirit is the Word of God, and it not only separates in congregations, but also in homes—the Ishmael class opposes the Isaac class—the Esau class opposes the Jacob class. Many not appreciating the divine plan are surprised that the truth causes division. Such divisions along right lines are to be expected and esteemed: but the Apostle speaks of another kind of divisions which are disapproved and are to be avoided; namely, divisions on technicalities, methods, forms, genealogies, etc. The Apostle assures us that such divisions are of the adversary. But divisions as between those who accept Christ as their Redeemer and the only hope of salvation, and those who do not so accept him, are most important and to be desired. Upon all other points the Lord’s people are to be peace-lovers and “peace makers.” “So far as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” Waive all unimportant tests and shibboleths, but in no sense or degree either ignore or deny the only basis of Christian fellowship—the “ransom for all.”
The believing Jews consorted or associated with the brethren, and quite a good many Greeks, including a number of honorable women, were counted among the believers; and the cause seemed to be gaining a good foothold: but again God permitted a disturbance which brought the truth and its servants more prominently before the attention of the whole people and served to make the cleavage between the believers and
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the unbelievers the more distinct. Thus not only a trial of faith and of character was brought unto the believers, but a blessing came, also, to those who were faithful; for all who took a decided stand for the truth were undoubtedly helped and strengthened thereby. The spirit of compromise with error is the most subtle and dangerous spirit encountered by those who are called to forsake all and follow Christ.
The unbelieving Jews were those who were not in proper condition of heart to receive the truth;—of the Ishmael class, they were full of envy and jealousy against the true seed of Abraham—the true heirs of the promise. They did not hesitate to employ hoodlums as their servants in creating an uproar and making a mob-assault upon the house in which they supposed Paul and Silas and Timothy were lodged. Not finding these, they took Jason and others of the new converts before their tribunal, accusing them of consorting with the disturbers of the peace. As usual, sagacity was shown in the nature of the charges; the same charge was brought forward that was brought against our Lord himself, namely, treason to Caesar—teaching of another king. Under autocratic governments, such as that of the Caesars, rulers everywhere were expected to be specially severe against any and every form of treason, and to have ignored such charges would have made them appear to be co-conspirators against Caesar. How shrewdly the adversary makes his attacks!
Since the Lord had been pleased to frustrate the plans of the enemies of the truth for the arrest of his ministers, the latter concluded that it would be the proper thing not to arouse further antagonism, nor to challenge their enemies by bringing charges of riot, etc., but rather peaceably departed for another city. In this they followed the instructions of our Lord, “When they shall persecute you in one city flee unto another.” They followed the example of our Lord also, of whom we read that he left Judea and Galilee, for he “could not walk in Judea because the Jews sought to kill him.”
The words of the enemies—”These that have turned the world up-side-down are come hither also,” indicate how wide-spread was the knowledge of the truth at this time, and how zealous the efforts of the apostles were conceded by their enemies to be. Nor was this turning up-side-down wholly the work of the apostles: rather it was the work of the spirit of the truth, wherever the truth was preached; the apostles were merely zealous in introducing the truth which did the work. When they were gone, the true believers, inspired by the same spirit, continued the work of turning matters up-side-down, not only in the synagogue, but also, we may be sure, in their own hearts and in their own lives; turning out the evil and impure, and turning in more and more of the fruits and graces of the spirit of the truth. The reason that so many who receive some knowledge of the truth, know little of the turning up-side-down of the perversities of their old natures is, because they fail to receive the spirit of the truth, fail to come into full sympathy of heart with the principles of divine righteousness which inspired the word of truth and formulated the divine plan. Alas! many seem to receive the truth not in the love of it; but rather in the love of controversy or in curiosity. To such it will be of no real value. To profit us it must be received as the sword of the spirit to kill the old nature, that the new nature may develop;—it must become “a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” to us, that we may by divine grace conquer self and bring every thought into captivity to the will of God.
The next stop was at Berea, sixty miles west of Thessalonica. Of the people of this city wonderful words of commendation are written, “These were more noble than those of Thessalonica, in that they received the Word in all readiness of mind, examining the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” This commendation is frequently misunderstood as applicable to the Christians at Berea; but not so, it applies specially to the Jews at that place: they seemed to be just ready for the truth, and yet received it, not in a spirit of credulity, simply because it was told to them, but properly they were ready and of a proper spirit to
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investigate, and to see whether the things spoken fitted to the prophetic statements respecting Messiah and his work, etc. This is always a mark of true nobility, and such noble persons are worthy of the truth and are enabled to receive it. Nevertheless, we are to remember that readiness to investigate and to receive the truth are not the only qualities which go to make up a Christian. In one of his parables our Lord illustrates a class which was ready to receive the Word, but had no root in themselves, and who consequently, when the sun of persecution arose, withered and drooped and lost their Christian vitality.—Matt. 13:6,20,21.
Apparently, the larger proportion of the Jews at Berea became believers, and the unbelievers were so comparatively few that they did not attempt persecution. But whether it was from lack of persecution, or whether it was that the seed at Berea fell into hearts that had less depth, it is nevertheless a fact that the Church at Thessalonica seems to have flourished far better than the Church established at Berea. This is evidenced by the fact that the Apostle wrote two of his epistles to the Church at Thessalonica, and we have no record of any written to the Church at Berea. We may draw a lesson from this to the effect that it is not always the places in which the truth is most favorably received that it will hold out the longest and bring forth the most fruitage. Persecution and opposition are often agencies of great blessings;—in part perhaps because they draw the line of demarkation sharply between those who are the Lord’s and those who are not the Lord’s. A certain amount of persecution is very helpful in the establishment of character. Hence the encouragement of the Apostle to “rejoice in tribulation;” and again his declaration, “Tribulation worketh patience.” Again the Apostle Peter stated that present afflictions may be considered light, because we recognize that “they work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
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