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VOL. XXVII NOVEMBER 15. No. 22
A.D., 1906—A.M., 6035
Views from the Watch Tower…………………..355
From Devilish to Saintly Surgery………….355
Another Operation at Toledo………………356
Secretary of the Navy on Anarchy………….356
Glasgow Convention Report……………………357
Earthly Things Appreciated Most………………358
Do All as Unto the Lord……………………..359
“Ye Can Do Nothing Against the Truth”……..362
“As Deceivers and Yet True”………………….363
An Apology for Pilate……………………364
Barabbas Chosen—by Popular Vote………….365
Some Interesting Letters…………………….366
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Vol. III. in Norwegian and Vol. V. in Swedish, just issued.
We again have “The Wonderful Story” in stock.
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VIEWS FROM THE WATCH TOWER
FROM DEVILISH TO SAINTLY SURGERY
WE HAVE already noted in these columns an instance of how surgery, the trepanning of the skull and the removal of a tumor from the brain, changed a bad boy into a good one. We now note, in the American-Journal-Examiner, the account of another such case: a bandit, desperado, train robber and murderer of the Northwest, after being imprisoned was found to have some good traits and became a very useful man in the prison service, but nevertheless retained a vindictive, murderous spirit. Seizing his opportunity he was about to kill one of the keepers. The record says: “He fought like a madman, and it was only after a spirited struggle that the handcuffs were placed upon his wrists. When the man regained his feet he said, “I never expected to be taken alive. Give me my arms and I will defy the whole town.” The man’s name is Charles Holzhay, but he was generally known as Black Bart.
The attention of the surgeons connected with the prison was drawn to the man, an operation was performed, a tumor removed from the brain, since which time Black Bart gives every evidence of being greatly changed in his general disposition, and, as the newspaper records—”Before they cut out the bad spot in the brain of Black Bart, the murderous bandit, he was the wildest, fiercest villain and freebooter of the Northwest; now he is tame and mild, a teacher in a Sunday School, a reader of tracts, a praying man full of noble impulses.”
No one for a moment supposes that all the meanness and weakness of the world are caused by brain tumors; but from our standpoint we can readily see that all the badness and meanness of the world is caused more or less directly by the fall, the imperfect twists and ruts of the human mind in consequence of depravity. Sin and death working in our race have wrought the general havoc of mind and morals and physique which makes of the human family what the Apostle describes as the “groaning creation.” We can readily see that the will may have large influence in rectifying these defects, so that those who give their hearts to the Lord and turn from sin and meanness to copy the Lord’s character to the best of their ability, may and do make considerable progress; but we all are witnesses that perfection is not attainable by any of us, however much we will to have it. As the Apostle said, “To will is present with me, but how to do [all that I will] that which is good, I find not.”—Rom. 7:18.
What the world needs, then, is the great Restorer, who, during the “times of restitution of all things spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began,” shall lift up the poor, degenerate race from its fallen condition and bring it gradually back to all that was lost in Eden by the first man’s transgression—back to the image and likeness of God. True, there will still be room for the human will to exercise itself, and any who knowingly, willingly, understandingly reject and oppose the divine restitution work will be utterly destroyed in the Second Death.—Acts 3:19-23.
The whole world, then, is waiting for the good Physician, and the Scriptures tell us how long they must wait and what blessings will come to them as soon as the waiting time is ended. They must wait until the Church, the Body of Christ, has been selected from the world and proven itself worthy of its call by willing and glad participation with Jesus in his work of sacrifice, that they may also be participators in his coming work of glory and blessing and uplifting. Then all the blind eyes shall be opened, all the deaf ears shall be unstopped and the lame shall be healed—physical, mental and moral healing and enlightenment are herein proclaimed as the work of the great Restorer, soon to begin. The entire work will require one day’s time—not a twenty-four-hour day, but the “Day of Christ,” for, as the Apostle Peter declares, “we should not be ignorant of this one thing, that a day with the Lord is as a thousand years.”—2 Pet. 3:8.
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ANOTHER OPERATION AT TOLEDO
The Toledo News-Bee says:—”Nearly a year has elapsed since Doctors J. & P. Donnelly operated on Harold Hurley, an incorrigible boy, at St. Vincent’s hospital, and since that time four other operations of similar character have been performed. The Hurley boy was a burden to his family and a menace to the neighborhood: he is a changed youngster, obedient, kind, tractable, and the parents are ready witnesses to the efficacy of the operation which rescued their boy from degradation, vice and crime.
“From all over the country, especially from large cities, come eager inquiries for the Toledo surgeons seeking information as to the nature of the operation and its results. Already in Philadelphia the city is bearing the expenses of the operations on incorrigibles and considers them a good investment, while New York is seriously considering the same problem.
“The last operation of this kind was performed in St. Vincent’s hospital Friday morning (Aug. 24) by Dr. J. Donnelly, on a 13-year-old boy, who was released from the workhouse and taken directly to the hospital for the operation.
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“Dr. Alfred Gordon reports that he has discovered a surprisingly large number of cases of feeble-mindedness among children supposed to be victims of cruelty, who are really in a condition bordering closely upon imbecility, and calling for constant and patient care, of a character their busy parents are unable to give them.
“It is proposed that these children in many cases shall be sent to the Institution for Feeble-Minded, which is to be built at Spring City, where the evil can be corrected to a great extent and perhaps result in the total cure of the children, who would otherwise be turned out upon the world, misunderstood and regarded as common criminals, for it is believed that the criminal instinct in their brains, caused by the defect, would increase as they grow older.
“The Philadelphia Inquirer tells of the organization of a Society there for surgical operations on juvenile incorrigibles apparently destined to a criminal career through some physical defect. It says:
“‘In all seven children were put under the knife by a number of the city’s most prominent surgeons, who performed operations of varied natures from the most delicate to those of minor importance, calculated to improve the mental and moral conditions of the patients. The total number of children examined was 147, and about fifty per cent. of these were found to be suffering from refraction of the eyes. Glasses have been ordered for all of these, and wherever possible the parents have been required to meet the cost, but the Society furnishes them free to the others.'”
SECRETARY OF THE NAVY ON ANARCHY
Secretary of the Navy C. J. Bonaparte’s recent address is thus reported by the secular press:
After reviewing briefly the history of anarchism in this country, the efforts made in the past to check its growth and its probable peril to nations for years, Mr. Bonaparte said:
“In the first place, the unlawful acts prompted by anarchism should be made crimes, in so far as they are not, strictly speaking, crimes already, and as crimes they should be visited with such penalties as are particularly distasteful to the criminals and therefore the most effective deterrents to crime. In dealing with a convicted anarchist two facts may well be remembered: the chances of his real reformation are so small that they may be safely neglected, and we can appeal for practical purposes to but one motive on his part to discourage a repetition of his offence, namely, the fear of physical pain and death.
“On anarchists the death penalty should be unequivocally imposed by law and inflexibly executed whenever the prisoner has sought, directly or indirectly, to take life. For offences of less gravity, I advise a comparatively brief, but very rigorous imprisonment, characterized by complete seclusion, deprivation of all comfort, and denial of any form of distraction, which could be, to my mind, advantageously supplemented by a severe, but not a public whipping; the lash, of all punishments, most clearly shows the culprit that he suffers for what his fellowmen hold odious and disgraceful and not merely for reasons of public policy.
“The final and most truly vital condition of success in ridding our country of anarchism in practice is that American public opinion should recognize the utter emptiness, the inheritent folly of its theory, and of all the kindred ready-made, furnished-while-you-wait schemes for the social regeneration of mankind. Civilized society, as it exists to-day, if it be nothing more, is the outcome of all the strivings for justice and happiness of the human race during thousands of years. What monstrous presumption, what preposterous conceit, for any man, were he the wisest, the most learned, the most justly famed of his own age or of all ages, to imagine that, with but the dim, flickering lights of his own dull, feeble mind, with but the few imperfect lessons of his own short, ill-spent life to guide his hand, he could cast down and build up again this incredibly vast, this infinitely complex fabric and improve on its structure!”
* * *
Poor world! All are deranged in some measure as a result of the Adamic fall. Some go crazy on religion, others on politics, others are money-mad. Only a few have what the Apostle calls, “the spirit of a sound mind.” (2 Tim. 1:7.) All deserve our sympathy as all have the Lord’s sympathy and are soon to have his aid, through Christ’s Millennial Kingdom.
Anarchists are probably as sincere as others, but their brains have a different twist from those of the majority. They have lost all hope of the establishment of a reign of righteousness by human instrumentality; and in their selfishness and sympathy exaggerate the woes and wrongs suffered by themselves and others, and propose the extermination of the rich; because lacking the spirit of love, “the spirit of a sound mind,” they see them as wholly evil.
From the standpoint of God’s Word we see that in the near future Socialists will become quite strong throughout the civilized world, as in opposition to anarchy, but that later on their failure to achieve their hopes will make anarchists of the majority of them and speedily convulse the world in the greatest time of trouble the world has ever known, which will completely overthrow present institutions. Thank God we see still further in his Word—that on that anarchistic
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wreck the Lord will establish the Kingdom of his dear Son, “under the whole heavens.”
No doubt Mr. Bonaparte’s prescription of death for anarchists will soon become law, under the claim that society’s life, as well as the lives of its individual members must be preserved, secured. And no doubt, also, at about that time the law of might will become so powerful as to throttle all liberty. And no doubt about then the enemies of Present Truth, as we expound it, will be numerous enough and powerful enough to throttle Zion’s Watch Tower publications, if not to persecute its subscribers. Opposition to civil government being esteemed injurious and worthy of a death sentence, it may be that a further step will be to declare a State Church standard of religious doctrine, and to proscribe us and others who cannot assent to it as “religious anarchists” also worthy of death. Let us not forget that our Lord and his apostles thus suffered as religious anarchists, because not in accord with the so-called orthodoxy of their day. “When ye see these things begin to come to pass, then lift up your heads and rejoice; knowing that your redemption [deliverance] draweth nigh.”—Luke 21:28.
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GLASGOW CONVENTION REPORT
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:—
It is said that “Coming events cast their shadows before,” and surely we felt that the Convention just past was affected by the knowledge that the great Convention of the Church is near at hand. But it was not a shadow we had—rather it was the light from the “glory to come” which gave us such a happy and blessed time together. While all the conventions are good there was a general consent to the feeling that this has been our best time. If we might judge we should say that while the addresses and talks were good and helpful it was not in these specially that the chief advantage was felt or the chief gain made; but that the fellowship and the encouragement gained from personal intercourse between the brethren—the communion of the holy Spirit—gave the real help and advantage. But all was good, and we praised the Lord for the foretaste of the “good to come.”
The British brethren were better represented than ever: the whole country from extreme North to furthest South sent messages of love, and a showing of interest. The Convention meetings were held in a pleasant hall, situated in one of the city parks; and besides the overflowing cup with which we were fed inside the hall the Lord favored us with the good things of nature. The weather smiled, and the brethren smiled, and the trees of the park, moved with the wind, clapped their hands for joy, and seemed delighted with the privilege of holding up the large advertisement telling that a “Bible Students’ Convention” was being held.
Many prayers had been offered for the Father’s blessing and guidance, and the Convention at once struck a high note of expectation and spiritual desire, and this was maintained throughout the meetings. Brother Hemery gave a welcome on behalf of the absent President of the Society—Brother Russell—and Brother Edgar, on behalf of the Glasgow brethren, gave a welcome to the Society. Then we had a most inspiring talk from Brother Bilsbrough on “Our Good Fight.” Other brethren who addressed the Convention were Brother Barton, Brother Edgar, Brother Johnston and Brother Hemery. On the second day thirty-three brothers and sisters were immersed, symbolizing their consecration to the Lord: our hearts went out to them and our prayers ascended for them that they might walk worthy of the grace given to them. The whole of the Sunday afternoon session was given for testimonies, and surely no people ever spent a happier time than we did. The testimonies were of the best character, and we laughed and wept and rejoiced with each other, and all to the glory of him we love and to the praise of his grace. Our minds recalled the earlier
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meetings when we met in small numbers, and we thought of the testimonies then given. Mostly, and naturally so, they were of thankfulness for the light which had come: now while there is the same gratitude for the light there is more praise for that which the light has worked in the heart. The Lord’s people are learning to rejoice in him as well as in his Truth.
Monday afternoon was spent partly on an exhibition lesson in the Berean Studies, and partly on a talk on the Harvest Work. The Study was chosen as an opportunity of showing the benefit of this special arrangement; how a very profitable time can be spent together, and how all can take part in the lessons. Already we have heard of several classes which are beginning these studies since the Convention. In the talk on the Harvest work Brother Edgar gave us a series of notes he had taken in the States, and the meeting was stirred as he told of the many brethren there who are spending their lives in the colporteur service. Brother Edgar and his wife, and his sister also, came back from the States enthused for the colporteur service, and as a consequence we had, on the Tuesday, a further meeting with this work specially to the front. As a result a general stimulus was seen: one dear brother gave up his work right away, and is doing well; others are to give a portion of their time, while quite a few others are thinking of entering the field. Bro. Hemery was unable to take part in the colporteur meeting, but on the previous day he said he thought the Lord’s hand was in the recent visit to America of the three Glasgow friends, for their report was very timely. The work of putting the books into the hands of the people is not increasing in proportion with the increased numbers of those who show interest; and owing to sickness and other causes the number of colporteurs had not been quite so large, and therefore the sales were not increasing as could have been wished. (We are glad to say that there has been a quickening of the output, and that we feel a little lighter since our stock is getting less! We cable today for further shipments.)
We had a very affecting time when Brother Barton was to leave us. The “sweet sorrow” of parting was almost too much for the dear brother. He had a good send-off as he left the railway station at night, for his visit has been a spiritual blessing to all the churches. How these brethren are appreciated! We shall look
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forward to the coming of a brother next year, but we should be glad if you would bring him—under your own hat. At the close of the Convention the meeting expressed its appreciation of the sending of the Pilgrim Brethren, and it rose to signify its love to Brother Russell, and to send him loving greetings and good wishes by this means.
This report is delayed through the writer’s sickness in Glasgow, where he was confined to bed for some days. Thanks to the Lord’s favor and the kind care of a good nurse, he is back at work again. We thank the Lord for the mercies of the past days, and are going forward with stimulated zeal and desire to do his will, to spend and be spent for him. With the love of all the brethren,
I am, dear Brother, your fellow-servant,
LONDON, Eng., Oct. 13, 1906.
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AT Scranton, Pa., Sunday, Oct. 21, we had a splendid season of refreshment. A Praise and Testimony meeting was started at 9 a.m., about 200 being present—interested friends from Scranton and surrounding points. It was closed shortly after the arrival of Brother Russell, in charge of a reception committee of six. Then followed the discourse to the interested, a report of which those desiring same already have in the public prints. It related to the manner of the Kingdom, and was intended to stimulate the faith and zeal of those present, to make their calling and election sure.
The afternoon session for the public had been well advertised, and was in the finest and largest auditorium in the city. Of course under those conditions a large audience was secured. The dear Scranton friends had determined to bring the Truth to the attention of their friends and neighbors more thoroughly than ever before, and succeeded splendidly—we understand at an expense of about $300. They seemed greatly pleased that, notwithstanding dark, threatening weather the Lyceum was crowded, about 300 being unable to obtain admittance, but were given with tracts on the topic. It is estimated that 1600 were seated and that 600 stood during the service. We all prayed the Lord’s blessing upon our united efforts to glorify his name. Only eternity will show the full results; but we know that no such efforts in his honor are despised by our gracious Lord, whether few or many of the large concourse were blest. Anyway all seemed to feel more than rewarded for the time, money and energy it cost. What a blessed privilege it is to be permitted to be co-laborers with the great Chief Reaper in this “harvest” work! Brother Russell left at 6 p.m., and Brother Samson gave a public discourse in the evening.
At Brantford, Ont., Canada, Brother Russell arrived about 10 a.m. Sunday, October 28. At about the same time others arrived from Hamilton and Toronto. At the meeting place about 200 assembled, and as the Brantford class numbers not above 20 this signified a large attendance from outside places: from Hamilton 14; from Toronto 30, and Chatham, London, Highland Grove, Galt, and many other places, as far away as New Liskeard, were represented. Some of these dear ones arrived Saturday, and their Praise and Testimony meeting began that evening and adjourned at 10 p.m., and was in full tide again on our arrival next morning, and continued until 11 o’clock, affording us an opportunity for hearing some of the praises to God for deliverance from darkness into his marvellous light. Something about the Canadian brethren and sisters reminds us of the friends in Great Britain; they are very whole-souled and warm-hearted. We always greatly enjoy meeting them. They seem to combine reverence for sacred things and fervency of spirit.
Brother Russell’s discourse to the interested began promptly at 11 o’clock and lasted for an hour and a half. It was on Matt. 25:31—the coming of our Lord in power and great glory. We need not comment, as those interested already have the newspaper report.
At 3 p.m. the service for the public was held in the “Grand Opera House.” The day was dark and threatening, but the house was packed (about 1000), many standing. Several hundred unable to gain admittance were supplied with tracts. Close attention was given and we trust some hearing ears were found. Anyway all in the Truth rejoiced in the hoped-for fruitage of our mutual endeavors. Homeward bound in the evening we had the company of many of the Toronto and Hamilton friends as far as the latter place, and parted singing “God be with you till we meet again,” and hoping that it may not be long until “we meet to part no, never, on the resurrection shore.”
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EARTHLY THINGS APPRECIATED MOST
NOT infrequently we meet some dear brother or sister who says: “It seems to me that I am not of the spiritual class. Try as I will I cannot imagine spiritual things, heavenly things. On the contrary, I can well imagine and take great joy and pleasure in thinking of the blessings of the Millennial Kingdom, the restitution times, the earth in process of release from the curse and progressing to the Paradise condition, and mankind being greatly uplifted through the ministries of the Lord and the glorified Church out of sin-and-death conditions now prevailing up to the full perfection of all lost in Adam, with the added favor of increased knowledge on every subject. Does not this indicate that I am not begotten of the Spirit, and that I need not have any expectancy of attaining to the heavenly things of which we read so much in the WATCH TOWER publications?”
We answer that those who take this position
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labor under a great mistake. These same things are true of every Christian. Everyone who has seen beautiful fields and lawns and gardens and who has a soul appreciative of the beauties of nature, can to some extent imagine what Paradise restored will be. Everyone who discerns the noble and true qualities of the human mind can approximately estimate what perfection of mind and heart would mean in the fully restored race of Adam, the result of restitution times at the end of the Millennial age. But not a soul on earth, not a saint that ever lived, has been able to imagine the heavenly things, the spiritual things, because he has never seen anything of the kind, has no powers whereby to contrast these with earthly things, and because they are not described in the Scriptures. As the Apostle declares, “It doth not yet appear what we shall be.” (I John 3:2.) He gives the key to our faith and knowledge when he adds, “But we know that we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
Our knowledge is purely a faith knowledge, dependent
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upon our confidence in our Lord and his promises. We walk by faith, not by sight, whom not having seen we love, whose heavenly home not having been described to us we realize to be grander than all earthly things, because our heavenly Lord has assured us that “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor entered into the heart of man the things which God hath in reservation for them that love him.” These things he tells us God hath revealed unto us by his Spirit. (I Cor. 2:9.) Not that he has given us pictures of them either by visions or mental pictures or word pictures, but he has revealed them to us in the sense that he has revealed himself to us; and as we come to a knowledge of the Lord and to an appreciation of his great wisdom and love and justice and power—as we come to realize that he is the grand exemplification and illustration of all that is good and great and loving and wise and beautiful and true, so we know that his heavenly home and all the arrangements which God has prepared for his special elect ones must be in some very special sense far above the very glorious things which he has prepared for those of the world in general, who during the Millennial age will accept his favors and his blessed provisions.
Suppose a woman who had found her ideal of a man, noble in every trait, mental, moral and physical, the one altogether lovely in person and character: suppose that she has accepted from this lover an invitation to become his bride and joint-heir in his estates: suppose that he showed her the most beautiful things of her knowledge in the vicinity of her home, and told her that these were not worthy to be compared with the grandeur of the home which he had prepared for her. Would not her confidence in her lover, that would lead her to forsake all to become his bride, lead her to have full confidence in his judgment and in his veracity respecting the many advantages of the home which he had specially prepared for her? Surely it would! She would need no more than his assurance, and would be glad to forsake her father’s house and the best of everything that she had ever seen or could imagine and attain to the things of her betrothed. And is it not so with those who have accepted the Lord’s invitation to become his Bride—to leave the world, to be changed from human nature to spirit nature, to inherit with him the glory, honor and immortality unspeakable and unknowable until the change shall come? Is this an unreasonable faith? Is this credulity? Does our Redeemer require of us an unreasonable faith? We think not. Yea, in proportion as we become followers in his steps our faith in the Leader grows, and our confidence not only in his words but also in his wisdom increases day by day as we onward go. We are confident, therefore, that he is able and willing to do for us exceedingly more abundantly than we could have asked or thought, according to the riches of his grace and his loving-kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.—Eph. 3:20.
Let us, therefore, gird up the loins of our minds and be sober minded, and hope to the end for the grace that shall be brought unto us at the revelation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Let us look not at things that are seen, which at most are temporal, but let us look at the things that are unseen, at the eternal things. Let us look unto Jesus with the eye of faith, let us look unto the crown of life which he has promised, let us look unto the place that he is preparing for us in the many mansions of the Father’s house; let us look, not with doubt and fear, but with full confidence that the grandest of our hopes will be much more than realized when he shall bid us come up higher and enter into the joys of our Lord. “Faith can firmly trust him, come what may.” The more we exercise faith along these lines of his direction, the more are we pleasing in the sight of him who has called us out of darkness into his marvellous light; and the more of such faith we exercise the more we will have in us the power of God, which will work in us both to will and to do his good pleasure—which will enable us to more and more live separate from the world, to overcome the world, and to fight a good fight against sin and selfishness, the world, the Adversary and our own flesh.
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DO ALL AS UNTO THE LORD
—ISAIAH 5:11-23—NOVEMBER 25—
Golden Text:—”I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection.”—1 Cor. 9:27
THIS DATE has been set aside as the “World’s Temperance Sunday,” and the S.S. Lesson has been selected in accord with this. The consecrated of the Lord’s people are not to be supposed to need special warnings or reproofs along this line. They have left the world behind, turned their backs upon sin and its various snares, and begun a life of consecration to the Lord—to them “old things have passed away, all things have become new.” For such to turn again to the ways of sin and the gratification of the flesh, the Apostle says (2 Pet. 2:22), would be like the sow turning to wallowing in the mire after having been washed. Nevertheless the general weakness and frailty of our fallen human nature, and the fact that we are surrounded by temptations, make it necessary that the New
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Creature in Christ should continually watch as well as pray lest he enter into temptation. None achieve such strength of character nor attain to such heights of spiritual development as would permit them to glory in the flesh or insure them against ever yielding to its seductive influences. Hence it is, the Apostle assures us, that when we realize our weakness and our dependence upon the Lord for grace to help in every time of need, then we are really strong; whereas when we feel strong, sufficient of ourselves, self-confident, we are really in danger.
THEREFORE GONE INTO CAPTIVITY
Isaiah’s prophecy was written after the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel had gone into captivity to the Assyrians, and in this lesson he seems to imply that in connection with the idolatries which were the direct cause of the nation’s overthrow as elsewhere stated, intemperance was associated. But although he uses most direct language on the subject we are still not sure that the drunkenness referred to was not symbolical, figurative, representing intoxication with the spirit of the Adversary, the spirit of self-indulgence, the spirit of licentiousness, the spirit of wilfulness and alienation from God. We do know that in other parts of Isaiah’s prophecy drunkenness is thus used figuratively, and we do know the same of other Scriptures, as, for instance, when we are told that Great Babylon made all the nations of the earth drunk with the wine of her fornication, and again it is declared that the world is drunk with the wine of the wrath of God just before the great climacteric trouble, which will be the consummation of the present age and the introduction of the new dispensation.
Isaiah was not writing to the people who had been injured—to the people of the ten tribes, but to the Israelites of the two tribes. He was seeking to warn them by the experiences of their sister nation. In a parable he pictured a garden of the Lord kept with diligent care by the great Husbandman, which should have brought forth good grapes and good wine, but which instead brought forth evil grapes and a generally evil, poisonous influence. And it is upon this pedestal or basis that our lesson is set up, warning the Jews who were still under divine favor against making a similar mistake. However, whether we apply the Prophet’s words to the figurative wine and strong drink or to the literal, we have lessons in both which are surely very profitable to all of the Lord’s people. We need to fortify our minds, not only against strong drink of false doctrines and error, but against every intoxicating influence. In our poor fallen state none of us have any too much sense, and we need to conserve all that we have, and of the Lord’s grace to receive more and more of his Spirit, which the Apostle describes as “the spirit of a sound mind.” In this connection we quote the wise words of Professor George Adam Smith:—
“No one who has had to do with persons slowly falling from moderate to immoderate drinking can mistake Isaiah’s meaning when he says, ‘They regard not the work of the Lord, neither consider the operation of his hands.’ Nothing kills the conscience like steady drinking to a little excess; and religion, even while the conscience is still alive, acts on it only as an opiate. … With fatal persistence the luxury of every civilization has taken to drink; and of all the indictments brought by moralists against nations, that which they reserve for drunkenness is, as here, most heavily weighed. The crusade against drink is not the novel thing that many imagine who only observe its late revival amongst ourselves. In ancient times there was scarcely a State in which prohibitive legislation of the most stringent kind was not attempted, and generally carried out with a thoroughness more possible under despots than where, as with us, the slow consent of public opinion is necessary. A horror of strong drink has in every age possessed those who from their position as magistrates or prophets have been able to follow for any distance the drifts of social life. Isaiah exposes as powerfully as ever any of them did in what the peculiar fatality of drinking lies. Wine is a mocker by nothing more than by the moral incredulity which it produces,
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enabling men to hide from themselves the spiritual and material effects of over-indulgence in it.”
In our lesson the Prophet represents those who are enslaved to strong drink, saying, “Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, until wine inflame them.” That which at first was a matter for the will to decide becomes very speedily a fixed habit, which controls the will and brings it into slavery, rendering it almost powerless. To the slaves of liquor or other intoxicants, such as tobacco, opium, morphine, etc., the voice of their tyrant master is heard when they awaken—their nerves cry out for the opiate; it is not with them as with those who are fully consecrated to the Lord and have him as their Master. To the latter the thought is and should be thankfulness to the Lord for blessings received, and petitions to him for wisdom and grace to render service in his cause for the day beginning. The Apostle declares that it is not so much whose servants we claim to be, but “his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death or obedience unto righteousness.” (Rom. 6:16.) If we are serving sin, serving the flesh, we are slaves to it; but if Christ has made us free in heart it is for the new mind to claim the divine promise, and to exalt itself in the ways of righteousness and to gain repeated victories over the weaknesses and besetments of the flesh.
EVERY GOOD THING PERVERTED
While under slavery to sin there is a disposition to turn all the good things of life into the service of the perverted appetites, and so our lesson sets forth that the harp, the flute, the tabaret, good in themselves, become improperly associated with the wine of revelry. Then the result is stated, “They regard not the work of the Lord, neither consider the operation of his hands.” How true this is: sin in its various forms blinding, influencing, the mind and heart are attracted away from the most worthy subjects of consideration. The Prophet David tells how he praised the Lord early in the morning, and in the night-watches called to mind his goodness, but contrariwise declared of those given up to self-indulgence and enslaved to sin, “God is not in all their thoughts.” (Psa. 10:4.) Their minds are distracted, turned to unworthy and ignoble subjects, that have more and more a degrading influence upon them. In a word, the general tendency of sin, which abounds in the
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world through the fall, is downward, but God has set before us in his Word higher and nobler and better standards. Wise are those who, hearing the voice divine, seek to follow it; foolish are those who, knowing the downward tendency of sin, pursue it.
CAPTIVES IN HELL
“Therefore my people are gone into captivity for lack of knowledge: and their honorable men are famished, and their multitudes are parched with thirst. Therefore hell hath enlarged herself and opened her mouth without measure, and their glory and their multitude and their pomp and he that rejoiceth shall descend into it; and the mean man shall be brought down, and the mighty man shall be humbled, and the eyes of the lofty shall be humbled.”
We cannot hope that even the most abstemious living on the part of the most godly of mankind would deliver any from the divine sentence, “Dying thou shalt die,” which, the Apostle declares, “passed upon all men through one man’s disobedience.” As a result of that sentence Adam himself went down to sheol, into the tomb, into the state of death (the “hell” of the above quotation). We can, however, fearlessly assert that the ignoring of the divine Law, the disposition to gratification of the fallen flesh, has greatly enlarged hell, sheol, the tomb. That is to say, that many more die prematurely than otherwise would. Because of this slavery to sin and appetite our race is greatly weakened mentally, morally and physically—hence the death of so many of the weaklings of our race in infancy and the general captivity of all, for, as the Apostle declares, “Sin and Death reign,” and the world are their subjects, their slaves. Thank God the Apostle points out a coming day when the groaning creation, slaves to sin, will be delivered from this bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. The opportunity for deliverance will be within their reach, yea, thrust upon them by the blessed conditions of the Millennial age, so that only by a wilful, persistent resistance of God’s gracious purposes will any of them be remanded to the Second Death as incorrigible.
Our lesson points out that this enslaving and degrading influence takes hold upon all the mighty and the great as well as the mean and the little, but eventually out of all this miserable failure on man’s part the Lord shall get glory and honor. In due time his gracious plan will so outwork as to bring in righteousness, and cause it to predominate and rule the world, even as Sin and Death are now ruling. Thank God that the great Redeemer who has purchased the world with his own precious blood is shortly to be the King of earth, Immanuel, God with men, and that one of his first works in connection with the establishment of his Kingdom will be the binding of Satan, the restraining of the power of Sin and Death and the setting free of all their captives, as it is written, the prison-doors shall be opened and the captives shall be liberated.—Isa. 61:1.
The people of Israel had been favored of God greatly in a covenant made with them through Moses, and in the consequent blessings which had attended them through the Lord’s general supervision of their affairs; and since they rebelled against all these, and degraded themselves after the manner of the heathen, they merited special judgments and received them. Their captivity was a part of these, and, as our lesson declares, their favored land was permitted to fall into the hands of strangers. Yea, the goodly portion, even the spiritual favors, were many of them bestowed upon us who were by nature Gentiles, aliens, strangers and foreigners from the commonwealth of Israel.—Eph. 2:12.
SLAVES OF VANITY AND SIN
When we read, “Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope,” we should not understand the word “woe” as a threat of future tribulation: rather we may consider it as an expression of sympathy. Woeful is the lot of those who are enslaved to a wrong course through vanity. Pride is really controlling a large proportion of the human family, conscience is violated because of pride, iniquities of various kinds are often unwillingly dragged along on this account. The poor groaning creation is as a slave bound to sin by a “cart rope”; it is so strong that he cannot break it even if he did realize its galling nature. On the contrary, blind to the real source of his troubles, the sinner often rejoices and seeks pleasure in his slavery, and knows not that the only one from whom it is possible for liberty to be secured is the Almighty God, who has appointed the Redeemer to set us free, and whose word is, “If the Son shall make you free you shall be free indeed.”—John 8:36.
This class of deluded ones, tied with cords of vanity and enslaved to sin with a cart-rope, are inclined to doubt the holy one of Israel—to say within themselves, “If there be a God, and if he have the power, would he not long ago have exerted it? May we not, therefore, go onward in the way of sin with impunity?” As the Prophet expresses it, they say, “Let him [God] make speed and hasten his work that we may see it, and let the counsel of the holy one of Israel draw nigh and come that we may know it.” Today we are living in just such a time. The fact that the Lord has been lifting the vail of ignorance from the world, and permitting mankind greater blessings and greater enlightenment than ever before, is influencing many of those who are drinking the wine of Babylon to deny the Word of God and the plan of God therein set forth—to deny that man was created in the divine image, that he fell, that he needed to be redeemed, that it is God’s intention to restore him, and that for the purpose of this restoration God has promised the Millennial Kingdom, and that the divine purpose in this Gospel age has been the selection of the Church, to be joint-heirs with Christ in that work of human uplift. As the Apostle has expressed it, they are inclined to say, “Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” (2 Pet. 3:4.) They have turned their minds in the direction of evolution, and conclude that man did not fall from the divine image, but that he has been progressing for now six thousand years from the image of a monkey, gradually attaining to perfection. They incline to say the world is just what we make it; they incline to ignore the Scriptural promise that there is a coming time of rectification or judgment as respects all the affairs of the world, and that in that thousand-year day of judgment all the
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iniquities of the present time shall be rectified, every good endeavor rewarded, every wilful misdeed receive its just punishment, and all mankind have a glorious opportunity of rising up under the stripes and disciplines and rewards of that glorious time to the recovery, if they will, of all that was lost in Adam.
THEY THAT CALL EVIL GOOD
These same people are disposed to consider the evils of our time as nothing, as really good in comparison with the past, and the good of the past they are disposed to reckon as evil, imperfect. The Doctors of Divinity and professors of our day are esteemed to be the highest standards of knowledge and authority that the world has ever seen, while correspondingly the Lord, the apostles and the prophets of the past are esteemed to have been unwise, foolish, ignorant, unable to discern each other’s falsities as the Higher Critics of our day discern them. Do not these, as the Apostle declares, call evil good and good evil? do they not put darkness for light and light for darkness, bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter? Are they not “wise in their own eyes, prudent in their own sight”? Are they not “mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink”—strong doctrine—wonderful philosophies?
GUIDED BY POLICY, NOT BY TRUTH
The final arraignment of the lesson is that the class under criticism “justify the wicked for a reward and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him.” That is to say, the spirit of “graft” is here recognized—it is a matter of policy. Many today can be found ready to compromise as respects their condemnation of iniquities if there is some reward and advantage or gift for themselves in connection with the matter, or if they believe that some general purposes favorable to themselves would be served thereby. Likewise is there not a growing spirit of disregard for the reputation of the righteous, so that many are not only indifferent on this subject, but would be willing to misrepresent or vilify those in the right if it would be profitable to them so to do? We cannot avoid the thought that this self-seeking disposition is growingly manifest everywhere—perhaps nowhere more so than amongst the clergy of Christendom. Many of them, we have every reason to believe, clearly recognize the weakness of the erroneous positions with which they are associated, and recognize to a considerable degree the strength of the Truth. Nevertheless the majority of them seem to be ready to justify, to defend, the wicked, the erroneous, the God-dishonoring creeds for a reward—for their standing in their denominations, for the honor of men, for the dignity and financial emoluments connected therewith. And for the same considerations many are willing to denounce and misrepresent as in error those whom they know to be the defenders of the truth, of righteousness. What says the Prophet of these? He says:—”Woe unto them!” And the “woe” time is very near at hand. It will be that great time of trouble such as was not since there was a nation, which shall engulf the great, the wise, the mighty, the learned, the chief captains, financial, social and religious, in the great catastrophe of anarchy. Thank God for the glorious prospect which we see in his Word—that just behind the clouds of trouble which surround our lonely way the Sun of Righteousness is arising with healing in his beams for the blessing of all the families of the earth, according to the Abrahamic Covenant.
OUR GOLDEN TEXT
The lesson for us all as the Lord’s followers is well expressed in our Golden Text, which holds before us the Apostle’s example, that we should be followers of him as he was a follower of the Lord and of his instructions. Let us, therefore, each and all, strive earnestly that we may be able to faithfully apply to ourselves the words of the Apostle, “I keep my body under and bring it into subjection, lest having preached to others I myself should be a castaway”—a castaway from the high calling with which we have been favored—losers of the great blessing and privilege of joint-heirship in the Kingdom with our Lord. Could we but keep ever before our minds the thought that we are on trial now, being tested, that we are being given opportunity to prove the sincerity and depth of our consecration to the Lord and to righteousness, the effect would surely be to spur us and energize us in the ways of the Lord. Let us remember, then, that this keeping under of the body appertains to our food as well as to our drink, to our thoughts as well as to our speech. Indeed all the difficulties with which we are obliged to contend begin in our thoughts, and by these, therefore, is the New Creature properly and justly measured by the Lord, who judges us not according to the imperfections of the flesh, which we have inherited, but according to our new spirits, our new minds, our new intentions, our new wills, our new hearts, and the energy and activity which these put forth in the keeping of the mortal body in subjection to the spirit, and so far as possible to the letter of the divine requirement.
“WE CAN DO NOTHING AGAINST THE TRUTH”
Whoever intelligently, wilfully, heartily does anything against the truth, against that which is right, is in serious danger of losing his relationship to the Lord—in serious danger of extinguishing the spark of the new nature with which he had been begotten of the holy Spirit. The Spirit of Christ is the spirit of obedience to the Father and to all righteousness, and whoever loses this Spirit so that he will intentionally oppose the Lord and righteousness, seemingly comes under the head of those mentioned by the Apostle when he says, “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his.”—Rom. 8:9.
This principle may be widely applied, but for the moment we narrow it down to the special topic of our lesson, intemperance, and suggest that from our standpoint the Lord’s people should all be found on the side of temperance and in opposition to intemperance. Even when apparently there will be no hope of enforcing a prohibition law, we do not see how the Lord’s faithful could conscientiously endorse the licensing a recognized evil. “We can do nothing against the truth.” We must not be of those who say, Let us do evil that good may follow. We do not need to judge those who differ from us as to their conceptions of duty, but we suggest that each one who is the Lord’s has a personal responsibility and should view it from this standpoint. We have no hope of the world’s reformation along the lines of prohibition, but this does not hinder us from expressing
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our sympathy for the right, which we are sure will prevail as soon as our Lord’s prayer is fulfilled that God’s Kingdom shall come and his will be done on earth as in heaven. It is our duty to help lift up the standard for the people, even though that be a standard which they will not accept nor be greatly profited by until the Kingdom enforce it. In line with this we suggest that if the Lord’s people at any time in any place be confronted with the question of license or no license they would do well to exercise their liberties and privileges in voting against the license—even though they may doubt the value of their vote and even though they might be sure that it would bring upon them more or less of odium and ill will on the part of those who are ready to rob the righteous of their righteousness for a reward and consideration.
We quote the following from the public prints without being able to verify its truthfulness. The lesson is true, whether the incident is so or not. The item follows:—
THE DECIDING TESTIMONY
“I have read of a town meeting in Pennsylvania where this question of license was to be decided. As the question was about to be put there arose from one corner of the room a miserable female, wrinkled and gaunt, and stretching out her arms, in a shrill voice she cried: ‘Look upon me. You all know me, or once did. You all know that I was once mistress of the best farm in town. You all know, too, I had one of the best—the most devoted of husbands. You all know I had five noble-hearted, industrious boys. Where are they now? Doctor, where are they now? You all know. You all know they lie in a row, side by side, in yonder churchyard; all—every one of them filling a drunkard’s grave!
“‘They were all taught to believe that temperate drinking was safe—excess alone ought to be avoided; and they never acknowledged excess. They quoted you, and you, and you [pointing with her shred of a forefinger to him who said that alcohol was a good creature of God, to him that sold the poison, to him that gave it as a medicine, for a little was good]. They thought themselves safe under such teachers. But I saw the gradual change coming over my family and prospects with dismay and horror: I felt that we were all to be overwhelmed in one common ruin. I tried to ward off the blow, I tried to break the spell—the delusive spell—in which the idea of the benefits of temperate drinking had involved my husband and sons.
“‘I begged, I prayed; but the odds were against me. My poor husband and my dear boys fell into the snare, and they could not escape; and one after another were conveyed to the sorrowful grave of the drunkard. Now look at me again. You probably see me for the last time—my sand has almost run. I have dragged my exhausted frame from my present home—your poorhouse—to warn you all—to warn you who taught, you who sold, you who gave;’ and with her arms high flung, and her tall form stretched to the utmost, and her voice raised to an unearthly pitch—she exclaimed: ‘I shall soon stand before the judgment seat of God. I shall meet you there, you false guides, and be a witness against you all.’
“She spoke and vanished. But when the chairman put the question, ‘Shall any license be granted for the sale of spirituous liquors?’ the response was the unanimous, ‘No!'”
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“AS DECEIVERS AND YET TRUE”
—LUKE 23:13-25—DECEMBER 2—
Golden Text:—”Then said Pilate, I find no fault in this man.”—Luke 23:14
OUR Lord’s words, “The darkness hateth the light,” were verified not only in his own case but also amongst those who have been his footstep followers throughout this Gospel age. In the lesson before us we see an illustration of this in the incidents connected with our Lord’s examination before Pilate and Herod, in his being “set at naught” and variously maltreated, and we can apply the same general principles to his true followers. Another of our Lord’s sayings was illustrated in his experiences at this time, namely, “If the light that is in thee become darkness, how great is that darkness.” The Jewish people had a certain amount of light, as the Apostle declares, “Much advantage everyway.” (Rom. 3:2.) Yet the most rabid of our Lord’s foes were the chief priests and rulers, and the Jewish mob whom they incited and authorized, and in a sense legalized by their learning, pretended piety and official position as those who “sat in Moses’ seat.” How great was their darkness, how perverted their sense of justice, how absent all sense of love!—how fully they demonstrated the wisdom of the divine decision that they were not fit to represent God and his Kingdom amongst men, and should, therefore, be cast off, that a spiritual Israel might be selected as Messiah’s associates, his Bride. And is it not the same to-day? Has it not been a similar class all the way down through the age and now that is found opposing God and his Anointed, represented in his members in the flesh? It is even so: while the whole world under the blinding influence of the Adversary is opposed to the light, to the Truth, to the children of the light and to the promulgation of the Truth, nevertheless it is nominal Christendom and her Doctors of Divinity whose opposition is chiefly aroused, whose tongues are the loudest in crying, “Crucify! crucify!” against all the true members of the body of Christ, those who walk in his footsteps. We are glad of the Apostle Peter’s assurance, as respects all such, that in general they have not had a sufficiency of light to make their course of conduct a guilty one to the last degree. The apostles said of the traducers of Jesus, his real crucifiers, “I wot that in ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers.” (Acts 3:17.) We may be sure that much of the opposition to the body of Christ all down through the age the Lord will be able to similarly pass by as done in blindness, in ignorance. We must be in the condition of heart to love our enemies, to do good to those who despitefully use us, and to pray for such; and we have
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good hope that when the blessed Kingdom of the Lord shall be established, and clear knowledge of the Lord fill the whole earth, many of these now blinded and bitter enemies will have the eyes of their understanding opened and be amongst those who will bow the knee and with the tongue confess to the glory of God.
JESUS BEFORE PILATE
Our Lord was brought before Pilate early in the morning of the day of his crucifixion, about eight o’clock. The Jewish Sanhedrin had met still earlier, and had approved of the findings of the High Priest in the examination during the night watches—that Jesus was guilty of blasphemy, of treason against God and his country. This was held to be proven by his admission before the High Priest that he was the Son of God, the Messiah. They were ashamed of him, and desired no such King, no such Savior, no such Messiah. They went to Pilate’s judgment hall early, before the news of our Lord’s arrest would reach the people of the city in general, and thus too great a commotion be made and perhaps some of his friends be aroused to his defense.
It required but a few moments for Pilate to make an examination of the prisoner at the bar. The charge against our Lord before Pilate was a totally different one from that on which he had been condemned by the Jewish Sanhedrin. It was of three counts: (1) Sedition, raising a tumult, stirring up the people to a rebellion; (2) that he taught the people that they should not give tribute to Caesar; (3) that he himself claimed to be the king who should receive the tributes. The charges were so evidently untrue that Pilate speedily discerned the animus of the Jewish rulers who formulated them. He saw that it was the religious power of the rulers that was in danger, and not the civil power of the Roman government. The multitude standing outside the gates shouted the accusations riotously, incited so to do by their religious teachers. Jesus made no reply, so that even Pilate marveled at his quietness, self-possession, non-resistance and lack of vindictiveness and refusal to defend himself, even though he was manifestly a person quite able to plead his own cause. Pilate even asked him if he were not aware of the fact that he had power either to set him at liberty or to inflict the punishment desired by the people. Our Lord’s answer was serene, that Pilate could have no power at all except as it was permitted him by the heavenly Father. Ah, this was the secret of our Lord’s composure! He had given his life, his all; he had surrendered to the Father his every interest; he had confidence in the Father’s love and wisdom, and was willing, therefore, to drink of the cup which the Father had poured, rejoicing to do the will of him that sent him and to finish that work. So with the Lord’s followers throughout this age—in proportion as they, like him, have been enabled to realize the fulness of their consecration and at heart have been filled with his spirit and loving submission to the Father’s will—in that same proportion they have been able to be calm under most severe and trying ordeals, so that the world even has marveled at their composure and self-control, the peace of God passing all understanding ruling in their hearts.
Concluding his brief interview with Jesus, Pilate approached the wide-open doorway of his court-room, outside which the people were crowding, and publicly and openly declared, “I find no fault in this man.” The rulers, disappointed, fearing that by some mischance they would after all lose their prey, were angry, and aroused the populace to expressions of dissatisfaction with the verdict. Pilate, however, had given the sentence and was not disposed to change it—yet he hesitated about setting Jesus at liberty in the face of such an angry demonstration on the part of the general public as well as of the influential rulers. Incidentally hearing something said about Galilee, he inquired if Jesus were a Galilean, and this being confirmed he said, “Since he is a Galilean I will send him to Herod, who at present is in the city.” Then our Lord, publicly accompanied by a squad of Roman soldiers, was sent to Herod, who had a curiosity to see him; he had heard many things about him, and he had wondered whether or not he might be John the Baptist, whom he had beheaded, raised from the dead. But when Herod began to question Jesus he answered him never a word. There is a time to speak and a time to hold silence, and our Lord was the master of the situation. Undoubtedly his silence was more forceful than anything he could have said. Herod was evidently provoked by this silence, but dare not belittle himself by showing this. He therefore contented himself by allowing some of his men of war to array Jesus in a gorgeous robe, and to do him mock reverence. He regarded Jesus as a pretender, and no doubt thought it a stroke of wit to parody his claims of royalty. His verdict was, Not guilty—innocent. As Pilate had turned the prisoner over to Herod, declaring that he himself found no cause of death in him, Herod returned the compliment by remitting the prisoner again to Pilate. When, therefore, Pilate found the matter again in his hands he called together the chief priests and the rulers of the people, as stated in the opening verse of our lesson, and said, “Ye have brought this man unto me as one that perverteth the people: And behold I have examined him before you and have found no fault in this man as touching those things whereof ye accuse him. No, nor Herod, for I sent you to him; and lo, nothing worthy of death is found in him. I will therefore chastise him and release him.”
AN APOLOGY FOR PILATE
Many are disposed to censure Pilate’s severity: they call him a wicked man, unwilling to stand by his own convictions, and suggest that even the proposition to chastise Jesus was a manifestation of this weakness—that if there was no fault in Jesus, justice would not only have forbidden his execution but would also have forbidden his scourging with whips.
We believe that an injustice is done the man. He was a heathen, had no faith in the Jewish expectancy of a Messiah,
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no respect for the Jews themselves, but thought of them as a rebellious people whom he was placed there to keep in order—in subjection to the Roman empire. His training in life had been to consider that there might be many gods invisible, but that Caesar, the Roman Emperor, was the tangible representative of the gods, whose honor, authority and respect should be maintained at any hazard. He knew that he was placed as the representative of Rome at Jerusalem not to do justice but to keep order—not to favor and forward the divine plans, but to represent and maintain the authority of the Roman empire. What mattered it to Rome if a thousand innocent victims suffered every year so long as Roman prestige was maintained and Roman tribute was collected? If injustice amongst the Jews had been likely to stir them up to disloyalty to Rome, then the injustice would have been righted, so that the authority of Rome might remain upon a good basis; but if both the rulers and the people united against anybody or anything, and made it a test of
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their loyalty to Rome, the Emperor and senate would surely expect that Pilate, as their representative, would favor the voice of the people and maintain order and quiet. Apparently therefore it was either a respect which Pilate felt for our Lord’s personality or the influence of his wife’s dream of the preceding night that led him to strive with the Jewish rulers for the release of Jesus. Many another man in his position would have used the opportunity to curry favor with those under his control, and would have executed Jesus simply to please them—just as we see that Herod did on another occasion, respecting which we read, “And he killed James, the brother of John, with a sword. And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also.”—Acts 12:2,3.
The scourging incident should be viewed from this standpoint: Pilate wished to placate the mob spirit which he perceived at his court gate: if Jesus were scourged, and thus demeaned, the people would probably be better satisfied and more likely to let the incident drop than if the Lord were turned free without chastisement. We esteem then that it was with a good motive rather than a bad one that Pilate condemned Jesus to be lashed on the back.
BARABBAS CHOSEN—BY POPULAR VOTE
At this season of the year it was the custom for the Roman Governor to release a prisoner as an act of magnanimity and an adjunct to the general joy of the occasion. Pilate reminded them of this, and suggested that after scourging Jesus he would be the prisoner whom he would release, but the multitude cried out against this with united voice, “Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas.” We cannot doubt that the priests and rulers had more or less to do with this—that they were still inciting the people against Jesus. And when we think of the Jews we are appalled at the condition of heart which it reveals. Barabbas was a seditionist in fact and had been imprisoned for murder—and this was the choice of the people as against Jesus! Truly they showed the murderous condition of their hearts: although outwardly a moral people, respecting the Law, inwardly they were filled with the spirit of the Adversary—they hated the Light and the great Light-Bearer. Similarly, all down through the age, those who have been chosen to office—while they have not always been seditionists and murderers—have rarely, if ever, been saints. And so today, although nearly nineteen centuries have passed, and the most civilized parts of the world are called Christendom, we may be sure that if our Lord were to offer himself as King to these he would be rejected, and, if not a murderer elected instead, the choice would certainly fall upon one who had considerable of the murderous spirit—the spirit of the world, the spirit of the Adversary, which frequently manifests itself, as the Apostle declares, in malice, hatred, envy, strife—works of the flesh and of the devil. The disciple is not above his Lord; but in proportion as he has a heart-likeness to his Lord, in that same proportion he will be tolerably sure not to be pushed into any place of very great honor and dignity in the present time. We by no means inveigh against those who occupy official and honorable positions. We believe that good, noble characters have filled such positions by popular choice, popular vote, but we consider such occurrences so rare as to prove the rule to the contrary. Let it be remembered, however, that we make a wide distinction between a good citizen, a good ruler, a noble man and a saint, a follower in the footsteps of Jesus. Let us determine that by the grace of God our stand will be with the Master; let us expect that it will be unpopular, cost us shame and contempt and disadvantage, and that this will be our share in his cross—and let us remember that only those who bear the cross will wear the crown.
“Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah offering each the bloom or blight,
Parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the right;
And the choice goes by forever ‘twixt that darkness and that light.”
PILATE’S WIFE’S DREAM
Edersheim remarks that it was “While the people were deciding to choose Barabbas instead of Jesus, and Pilate was sitting on his judgment seat, a messenger came to him from his wife, warning him not to yield and deliver up Jesus to be crucified, for she had suffered many things in a dream because of him. We can understand it all, if, on the previous evening, after the Roman guard had been granted, Pilate had spoken of it to his wife. Tradition has given her the name Procula. What if Procula had not only been a proselyte, like the wife of a previous Roman governor (Saturninus), but had known about Jesus and spoken of him to Pilate on that evening? This would best explain his reluctance to condemn Jesus, as well as her dream of him.”
“WHY, WHAT EVIL HATH HE DONE?”
Pilate a second time essayed to influence the people, but again they began shouting, “Crucify him, Crucify him,” and the third time he appealed to them saying, “Why, what evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in him. I will therefore chastise him and let him go,” but
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the mob was “instant with loud voices requiring that he might be crucified, and the voices of them and the chief priests prevailed.”
Stalker comments upon this incident: “This scene has often been alleged as the self-condemnation of democracy. Vox populi, vox Dei, its flatterers have said—but look yonder! When the multitude has to choose between Jesus and Barabbas, it chooses Barabbas! If this be so, the scene is equally decisive against aristocracy. Did the priests, scribes, and nobles behave better than the mob? It was by their advice that the mob chose.”
Elsewhere their arguments are set forth: they clearly intimated to Pilate that the incident would be reported at Rome, and would have a peculiar light that would reflect against his vigilance as the representative of Roman authority—that a pretender to the dominion of Israel had appeared, and that they themselves, loyal to Rome, had arrested him and brought him to the Governor, who was so slack of his duty that instead of crucifying him he had set him free. Poor Pilate was in a very hard place for one of his character, position and education. He gave way finally under pressure, whereas many a man in his place would not have thought of resisting the popular will in such a matter. He finally gave sentence that the will of the people should be done. And is not this as high a level as is ever attained by earthly law and justice? What human law can stand against the will of the people? Is it not the same with us today? The people make the laws and the people execute them, and Pilate merely hearkened to the voice of Jesus’ own countrymen. Here, too, the Scriptures lay the blame, saying, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” Here the Apostle also lays the blame, not upon Pilate, but upon the Jews and their rulers.
PILATE WASHED HIS HANDS
As an indication of his dissent, and as clearing himself in the sight of all from the responsibility, Pilate called for water to be brought, and in the sight of the multitude poured it over his hands. Thus washing his hands he said, both in symbol and in words, “I am innocent of the blood of this righteous man, see ye to it.” (Deut. 21:6-9.) How blinded were the Jews that they could not even appreciate justice to the same extent as this heathen ruler, who had nothing at stake personally nor religiously—whose every interest might be said to have been better served by a concurrence in the popular vote. This hardness of heart is represented by the willingness with which the priests and rulers and multitude accepted the responsibility, saying, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.” The full responsibility of what followed was left with the Jews.
“HIM WHOM THEY PIERCED”
Carrying out the thought that the responsibility lay with the Jews, God through the Prophet had already declared that the time would come when the poor blinded eyes would be opened and the Jews would look upon him whom they had pierced and mourn for him. (Zech. 12:10.) Thank God that such a time is coming, and that the Lord promises that he will pour upon them the spirit of prayer and supplication, and will take away their sin. As a people they have had severe experiences for now many centuries, and all who have the Spirit of Christ rejoice to know of their coming reprieve; and not only so, but to know, further, that the blessing which will thus begin with the “Jew first” shall extend through him under the divine guidance of spiritual Israel in glory, the Christ, to the blessing of all the families of the earth during Christ’s Millennial reign.
“AS DECEIVERS AND YET TRUE”
These words of the Apostle merely confirm the thought emphasized by the Master himself, that all true followers of Jesus will have more or less of his experiences. He was the true one—the Truth, as well as the Way and the Life—and yet he was crucified as a deceiver, he was misunderstood by the sin-blinded world, yea, by the most enlightened people of that time. The disciple is not to expect to be above his Lord, but rather to expect to glory in the privilege of being his companion. Let us learn, therefore, to rejoice even in
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the midst of misrepresentation, falsification, buffetings, scourgings, legal and illegal, farcical—let us count it all joy to be permitted thus to have companionship with our beloved Savior; let us learn the lesson of patient endurance in well doing, that in due time, not having fainted, we may reap the glorious reward of joint-heirship with him in his Kingdom.
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SOME INTERESTING LETTERS
DEARLY BELOVED BROTHER:—
I am thinking of that blessed season of soul refreshing which the good Lord permitted so many of us to enjoy to so full an extent at St. Paul. I wish I could have each countenance clearly impressed upon the tablet of my memory as I saw them there. I wish I could remember all their names, and recall all the kind words they uttered. But I can’t, and therefore I realize that, good as it was, it was not quite the thing we are expecting; and when I think what a good thing it was, then I wonder just what we are expecting anyhow, and I confess that my lips cannot describe that upon which my heart is fastening its hope. But I know that I shall see my Lord face to face and be with him and like him.
Among the many things that impressed me was the thought that our dear Master was there, and all the glorified saints with him. The thought that very soon, if faithful, we, too, would be on the other side of the vail; and then that “if” impressed me, and I said deep down in my heart,—
“Teach our thoughts to ever rise
Upward toward the heavenly prize;
Help our doubting hearts to clasp
Hope within a firmer grasp.”
We thought of the thousand or more of the Lord’s little ones there, and we tried to comprehend the sum of their trials, and we tried to multiply it by 144, and we failed; and then we tried to add it to the trials and suffering of our dear Master, and failed again. Then we tried to subtract it from the sum of all our joys when we shall be glorified together with our Lord, and the remainder was beyond our comprehension; and then we thought, Oh, how glad we will be when we
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know as we are known, when the dear Master will divide the spoils with the strong.
We thought of the progress these dear friends had made, as we looked into their beaming faces and saw the beautiful lines traced there by the divine artist; lines and coloring that told of the beauty of thoughts, desires and hopes stored away in each bosom, and we seemed to hear the heart-throbs utter,
“None of self, and all of thee.”
“But are there no scars and wrinkles to mar this beauty?” our ungenerous flesh asked, and the Spirit gently replied, “Doubtless there are scars and wrinkles, but not to mar this beauty—oh no, no! for there were no eyes there to behold the scars and wrinkles, only the beautiful.” “Love hideth a multitude of sins.” It was literally love before you, love to the right of you, love to the left of you, love above you and love within you.
Then we thought of it as a rally—a rally around our invisible Standard-Bearer and his unseen army. And then we noticed lines and features that indicated discipline, hardness as good soldiers, firmness, decision, patience, etc. And we were impressed, and at once tightened our armor a little more and grasped the weapons of our warfare a little more firmly, and faced about a little squarer and stood a little straighter, and our hearts responded, “Yea, Lord, we are ready to follow even unto death.”
We remembered that we were an army in camp, feasting on food such as loyal soldiers needed, and that we were doing so in the face of the enemy, and that soon the orders would be to break camp and march. Yes, “To the front, to the front!” would soon be the call to the battle. And may we all “Fight the good fight of faith,” and be able to say with the Apostle, “I have fought a good fight.”
Your brother in Christ and in fellowship of suffering and hope, J. P. MARTIN,—Ohio.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:—
As Bro. __________ is very busy he wishes me to write you in reference to the enclosed draft.
Some matters have taken a different turn since he spoke to you of loaning the Society a sum of money this fall. We have again decided to make the enclosed amount ($1,000.00) a donation instead of a loan. We find, somewhat to our surprise, that in the Lord’s providence we are about as able to give the amount as we were to give the same amount a year ago, so feel that it would be pleasing to the Lord to do so. Kindly place the amount to our credit on the “Good Hopes” fund for 1907. We thought it as well to pay “cash in advance” on the Lord’s account and reserve the “hopes” for our own!
Personally, Brother Russell, I feel that I would like to tell you that I find much peace and comfort from the clearer understanding of the Lord’s will in reference to woman’s place in the Church and home. I began to seek light on the subject before we came “into the Truth” and I presume I received as much light as I was able to walk in at the time. I can see how it must have cost you some “crucifixion of the flesh” to declare the whole counsel of God on the subject—even as it is in some cases contrary to the natural heart to receive it. But when we see the Lord’s will in reference to any matter and submit our wills to his what rest of heart it brings!
Brother __________ and I found the double TOWER of last July a blessing, although we had never been disturbed in mind over your private affairs. We realize it must have caused you sorrow, pain, to be required in the Lord’s providence to so lay bare your heart’s secrets, but we trust it has not been without a measure of compensating blessing to yourself as it has without doubt been a blessing to others.
May the dear Lord who has so graciously blessed you and made of you a blessing continue with you to the end. Your sister in hope, MRS. __________.
MR. CHARLES T. RUSSELL:
DEAR SIR,—It has never been my good fortune until the past few months to read any of your works on Bible common sense, but am pleased to inform you that within the past three weeks I have had the use of your work, and so far my reading is quite satisfactory. You are certainly led by the Spirit of God to write the simplicity of his expressed will in plain words.
I had read some of your writings previous to reading these volumes, and was impressed with your reasoning and conclusions. I am a seeker after Gospel information, and have some crude ideas, but a firm believer, and get my opinions from my Bible reading, but never go to the Bible with an opinion of my own. I never believed in “torment” or “torture,” but in a just punishment—the law of cause and effect, as it were.
I have some pulpit work to do—not a “preacher,” however—just talks, as Superintendent of this Home for paroled and discharged prisoners who would start new and honest in life. I practised law for twenty years, but retired, and am now giving my time and talents to this work.
I thank God for such intellects as yours, and for such industry, such mind-consecration. God bless you.
Sincerely yours, V. P. K.,—L.I.
R.M.S. Lucania, Oct. 1, ’06.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:—
We are now on board, all three of us, off to the “Old Country.” About a dozen of the New York friends were at the pier to see us off. We have had a very pleasant and helpful sojourn in this country and have met with so much kindness everywhere that we don’t know how to thank you all sufficiently. We know that you will say to this that we are to thank the Lord, and we do, dear Brother, for without the Lord we should not have known you all. We are glad that we and so many others have received such marvellous light. All we have met have shown the same spirit, the Spirit of our dear Master.
We shall always look back with thankfulness to our visit to America, and we hope the many lessons we have learned—for we have been keeping our eyes and ears open—will help us to be conformed to the image of God’s dear Son. We shall try with God’s help to impart to others the blessings we have received.
We desire to thank you, especially, dear Brother, for the kindness we have received from you. We know that a great deal of the hospitality we have received has been due to you. We trust that you will be sustained throughout the rest of your life’s journey on this side of the vail. We shall continue to pray for you. Convey our love in the Lord to all the Bible House friends. We love you all because we see in you so much of the Spirit of Christ.
I am, with love to you from my wife, sister and self, JOHN EDGAR.