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VOL. XVIII. FEBRUARY 1, 1897. No. 3.
Special Items………………………………. 30
“Ye are Bought with a Price”…………………. 31
The Salt of the Earth and the Light
of the World………………………….. 35
“The Spade and the Bible”……………………. 37
Concerning the Epistle of James………………. 38
Was Mother Eve Ransomed?…………………….. 38
Lying to the Holy Spirit…………………….. 39
“Obey God Rather than Men”…………………… 41
Letters from Distant Colaborers………………. 42
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“YE ARE BOUGHT WITH A PRICE”
—1 COR. 6:20.—
WHAT different sentiments these inspired words awaken in different hearts! To the heart of the natural man these sentiments are very objectionable; but to the heart fully in harmony with God and the divine plan they are precious words, full of comfort and joy. The unregenerate heart, full of pride, convinces itself that it did not need to be bought; that it did not need to be redeemed; that it had no very serious ailment of sin. It is perhaps ready to admit, and would surely find it difficult to dispute, that it is imperfect; that tried in the balances of justice it would be found wanting; but to itself these lacks of perfection are very slight, and deserving of but trivial punishment of some kind, and that punishment it expects to bear and believes that it does bear to the full in earthly troubles. The natural heart believes in a Great First Cause, of some kind, which it calls God: it believes also in certain laws of nature which it holds are irrevocable and unalterable. It denies that there is forgiveness. It is therefore wholly out of harmony with the gospel proposition of a “Sin-offering,” a “ransom for all,” and consequent forgiveness of sins under the terms of the New Covenant, to whomsoever will accept the conditions.
This class of unbelievers is in many respects the most hopeless; because they have a sort of worldly-wise philosophy which so fills their minds that it hinders them from seeing the beauty of the true Bible philosophy. They are usually blind to the very simplest logic that could touch this question as presented in the Scriptural declarations, “The wages of sin is death,” and “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” While they cannot and do not claim perfection, it seems never to have occurred to them that all imperfection is unrighteousness, sin, and that the judgment of a perfect God would properly and naturally be the destruction of that which he does not approve, and the blessing and perpetual continuance of those things only which are acceptable in his sight, perfect things and perfect beings. Not until this view is grasped are any properly prepared for the message of the gospel—the message that God is operating in Christ for the reconciliation of the world unto himself. Only as the natural man learns that “the wages of sin is death” does he appreciate the fact that eternal life is a gift of God through Jesus Christ, our Lord; so that “he that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” eternal.—1 John 5:12.
But our inspired text gives offense to the natural man, and to the man fallen from grace, in another respect; it hurts his pride. It implies that he is being treated as a mere slave, or chattel, to be bought and sold. What could be more galling than such a thought to the proud, unregenerate heart?
Nevertheless, this thought is kept up throughout the Scriptures, and the meek, the humble-minded, alone are able to appreciate it. They hear the apostle’s statement that all were “sold under sin” (Rom. 7:14), and they realize the truthfulness of the declaration. They find abundant evidence in themselves and in the entire race that all mankind are “slaves to sin;” they find “the law of sin in their members” and in others. They find the power of Sin so strong that it cannot be broken by any; that, although it may be fought against, nevertheless it holds over all mankind a mastery which the enslaved ones cannot fully overcome. They see thus, in the apostle’s words representing Sin as a great task master ruling the world, a very grim but very
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truthful picture of the facts. They inquire of the Word of God, How comes it that God, himself good, pure and perfect, has brought forth human children under such a bondage to Sin through imperfection? They inquire, Do not the Scriptures declare of God, “His work is perfect?” Why then this imperfection, why this subjection to the power of Sin? An answer can come from one quarter only—the Word of God; and that answer is the only satisfactory answer, the only one which meets all the requirements of the conditions as they are known to men.
That answer is, that, although God’s work was perfect in the creation of man, yet the creature, being endowed with free moral agency, rebelled against the law of his Creator and thus by self-will, self-gratification, brought himself under the sentence previously prescribed,—”Dying thou shalt die.” This deliberate act on the part of our first parent not only brought himself under this penalty, but since his posterity proceeded from himself, all of his posterity shared in his subjection to death, and in the slavery to Sin consequent to his alienation from God and his failing powers as he gradually passed under the power of death. So then the fact that father Adam sold himself and the posterity yet in his loins to Sin, for a momentary gratification of self-will, meant not only his own enslavement, but also that all of his posterity would be born in such slavery to Sin. And such are the facts of the case: all of his posterity can say with one of old, “I was born in sin and shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”
Here we come to the thought which was evidently in the minds of some of the early reformers when they promulgated the doctrine of Total Depravity, which is held by many at least theoretically, but from which we must dissent. We hold with the Scriptures that as a result of Adamic transgression there is a general depravity which extends to every member of the human family, so that “there is none righteous, no, not one;” but we deny that this depravity is a total depravity; we deny that any individual of the human race is totally, hopelessly, in every particular, wholly without anything that is good or commendable. The only sample of total depravity of which we have any clear knowledge is Satan himself,—the father of lies and of every wicked work.
But general depravity is general enough; and, being general, no man should have any difficulty in finding to some extent the portion of it which he himself has inherited, as well as discerning it in others. True, although the depravity is general, it is not alike general. Some are more depraved than others; some have the original moral likeness of God less blurred and defaced than others. In harmony with the Scripture statement that we are born in sin, every discerning person whose eyes have been opened to what depravity is can note the evidences of it even in childhood. Self-will and passionate obstinacy are often to be noted in infants but a few weeks old, and very patient should the parent be, as well as very attentive and thorough the correction of his child, when he remembers that the very traits which need correction have come down to the child from himself. Thus the Christian parent should be not only the most thorough in the matter of training up a child in the way it should go, but also the most patient, considerate and kind in giving this correction.
We have then before our minds the fact and general prevalence of sin and whence it comes; and we see the force of the apostle’s words when he personifies Sin as a tyrant master, and represents mankind as his slaves, to whom he pays his wages—death. “The wages of sin is death.” We have seen that God is not blameable for this enslavement, but, as the Scriptures declare, it was by one man’s disobedience that all were brought under the power of Sin and subjected to the wages which it pays. While the extreme wages only are mentioned—death—yet, before the payment of the full wages, we all received, incidentally, many of the aches and pains and difficulties, mental, physical and moral, imposed by this great task master, Sin. And as a groaning creation travailing in pain together under this hard task-master and suffering from his cruel lashes, all long for deliverance, and some of us have cried out to God for help—for salvation from sin and death, into righteousness and life.
God wishes us to learn very thoroughly the lesson of the “exceeding sinfulness of sin,” of its gall and bitterness, and of the hopelessness of any deliverance, except that which he will provide. Personal experience has proved to us that we cannot deliver ourselves from this slavery, that, in order to overcome the wicked one and his wiles and arts, which take firm hold of us because of the weaknesses of our flesh and through the fall, we need a power that we do not by nature possess. Finding ourselves powerless to help ourselves, we would naturally look to each other for aid; and indeed might get some aid from each other; but we all know how little aid can be given or received from natural sources. And when we learn the lesson which the Scriptures teach that all are slaves, that all were sold under sin, that “there is none righteous, no, not one,” then we see the utter helplessness of our condition as a race. All who realize the situation and feel the bondage and seek deliverance may thus see that the only hope is in God. If they reflect that it was God himself who pronounced the sentence of death, and that he could not annul his own sentence nor transgress his
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own laws, let them reflect also that as he has superior power to ours, he has also superior wisdom, and that he may know how to do that which to us would seem an impossibility.
And this was the case: When there was no eye to pity and no arm to deliver, then God pitied and his arm (power—in Christ) brought salvation. (Psa. 69:20.) But how? How will God deliver? How can God himself continue to be just and yet release his condemned
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creatures from the sentence of his own law? Our text answers: God provided that these slaves of sin, sold into slavery by disobedience of their father Adam, are to be delivered by a great savior, who first of all would purchase them and afterwards set free all who will accept freedom upon his terms and conditions.
The price in the original sale was disobedience, and its sentence death; the price of the purchase was obedience unto death. Not only so, but, this is expressed in the meaning of the word “ransom,” a corresponding price: the redemption price by which the race is purchased must correspond in all particulars to the original sentence. The purchase price, the ransom price, must in every sense of the word correspond to that which was forfeited by the transgression. Adam was perfect as a man before he sinned, hence, whoever will be his redeemer must be a perfect man. A perfect angel would not do, nor would a perfect arch-angel be a suitable price; they would be as inadequate as a sacrifice to meet the conditions, as an imperfect man would be, or a lower animal. God has placed the matter in such a form by his own law and sentence, that only a perfect man could be a ransom, a corresponding price, for the perfect man who sinned, and in whom the whole race of mankind had been sold under Sin and under its penalty, death.
It was in order to prepare the great sacrifice for sin, and in harmony with the divine wisdom and plan, that the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, full of perfection, submitted himself to the Father’s will, that he should humble himself to (without dying) be transferred or translated from his high and glorious nature and condition to a lower nature and condition, lower than that of the arch-angel, lower than that of ordinary angels, down to the condition of man;—not to the condition of sinful man, but to the proper condition in which God had created man (in which Adam was before he sinned). Obedient to this arrangement, our Lord Jesus “was made flesh,” became of the same nature as the race which had gone into the slavery of sin, but he did not share in its sin nor in its imperfections. The apostle’s declaration is that, in harmony with this divine purpose, our Lord, the only begotten of the Father, left the glory of his original nature and “was made flesh” and dwelt among us, and that for the purpose “that he, by the grace of God, should taste death for every man.” When, therefore, our Lord appeared in this humble condition, divested of the glories of his original spirit nature,—humbled to human conditions—it was not that he had died to his previous spiritual condition, for, although he came to die, he had not yet died. It was the man Christ Jesus who gave himself our ransom in death, and not the spirit being who previously became the man: the humbling from spirit conditions to human conditions, laying aside of the glory which he had with the Father before the world was, and becoming poor for our sakes, was only incidental to his great sacrifice begun at Jordan and finished at Calvary. But the man Christ Jesus was the same one who previously had been rich in spiritual nature and glory, and who could and did say, “Before Abraham was, I am”—thus particularly emphasizing the fact that he had not ceased to exist at any time in the transfer of his being from the higher to the lower condition.
Had our Lord been born as the son of Joseph, or received his life from any other human source, he would have been a partaker of the sentence upon our race, and of the weaknesses of the fallen flesh, and of the slavery to sin through that weakness. And the Scriptures are very careful to point out to us that his life did not come through such a channel and that it had none of this imperfection, declaring that “in him was no sin.” He was holy, harmless, separate from sinners; although partaker of human nature, he was not a partaker of a fallen human nature, but of its perfection. If it is inquired whether he did not receive contamination, sinful nature, etc., through his mother, we reply, No; and we are ready to support the testimony of the Word of God by showing its reasonableness upon philosophical principles. But for this phase of the subject we must refer our readers to an article under the caption, “The Undefiled One,” in our issue of July ’90.
He who came to be our Ransomer, our Purchaser, to pay for us the debt on account of which we were all made slaves to sin and death, was in fullest sympathy with the divine purpose, and made haste so that at the very earliest moment possible he began the work which the Father had given him to do. Since Adam at the time of his transgression was a perfect man, and since under the law manhood was reckoned as beginning at the thirtieth year, therefore, it was needful that our Lord should delay the work of sacrifice on our behalf until he had become, in the full legal sense, the man Jesus; then he began the work by consecrating himself even unto death, baptism in water being the symbol of this; and during the three and a half years which followed he was but carrying out that covenant of
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death, dying daily; and at the close of three and a half years he could say upon the cross, “It is finished.”
What was finished? the release of the slaves of Sin? No; the slaves of Sin for whose redemption he gave his life were still in bondage, their slavery was not finished. What was finished? The sacrifice was finished, nothing more; it was not yet even accepted. The presentation of that sacrifice on our behalf and its acceptance by the Father did not take place until nearly fifty days after he who redeemed us had been raised from the dead by the Father’s power, thus giving assurance to all that his work was well and satisfactorily done, and that it would be accepted in due time. And he ascended up on high, and, as the High Priest, appeared before the Father and applied his merit on our behalf as believers. The sacrifice offered, the price paid, is sufficient; it covers every member of the human family. For, since all men came under the slavery of Sin and under the sentence to death through the transgression of Adam, now that the corresponding price has been paid for Adam, it implies full satisfaction for all the posterity of Adam, the sharers of his sentence. The race had been bought; and, more than this, the world had been bought, including the earth itself, because the earth was given to man as his inheritance, and when he himself became a slave, all of his possessions passed with him into the slavery of Sin, and so the curse has rested upon the world. And now that Adam and his race have been bought, how could it mean less than the redemption also of the earth from the dominion of the curse?
But we see not yet the earth’s release from the curse, we see not yet mankind delivered from the slavery to Sin, we see that still the race is going down daily into death; “Dying thou shalt die” is still written against the race of Adam. Why is this so? The Scriptures, and the Scriptures only, answer this question. They declare that God is at present selecting the “royal priesthood” and “joint-heirs with Christ,” who shall by and by share with him in the Kingdom which shall break off the shackles of sin and open the prison doors of death and set free all the captives who long for freedom upon the divine conditions. This, we remember, was our Lord’s declaration on this subject: He declared at his first advent that the ultimate result of his work would be “to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to them that are bound. (Isa. 61:1; Luke 4:18.) As we gladly accept the divine arrangement and realize it to be best, so we must also accept the divine times and seasons, and realize that they are wisely ordained; and indeed all whose eyes are anointed with present truth may already see much of this wisdom.
While all mankind, therefore, have been bought, so far as our Lord Jesus’ sacrifice is concerned, it being once for all, nevertheless, the only ones who are yet received of the Lord, who are yet brought into relationship to him through Christ, are those who recognize his sacrifice, and who, whether they understand the subject philosophically or not, believe what the Scriptures so distinctly declare, that we were bought with a price—the precious blood of Christ. It is this class that the apostle addresses; these who realize that they were slaves of Sin, and who now realize that they have been bought with the precious blood of Christ, and who having accepted of him and his power to save, are no longer yielding themselves as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin, but are seeking to yield themselves as servants of righteousness unto God. It would be useless for the Apostle to address any others than these in this manner, but pertinent and forceful is his argument to those who realize the true situation, and who are clinging to Christ as their Redeemer who shall ultimately be their Deliverer. To these he says,—”Ye are not your own.” Your time, your talent, your influence, your money, all that you consider precious or in any degree valuable, all properly belongs to God. It was not only his by right, in that it originally was his creation, because all that we have that is valuable in any sense of the word, has come from the heavenly Father; but now it is his in a second sense, in the sense that he has redeemed or bought it back from the destruction to which by sin our first parent delivered it.
The apostle uses this argument as though it should be a conclusive one with all who are right-minded; and so we believe it is. And those who are rightly exercised by this knowledge of divine grace in Christ not only accept the forgiveness of sins with thankfulness and joy, and with meekness and humility acknowledge that they were slaves of Sin and that they were redeemed therefrom, but they also gladly acknowledge the new Ruler, the Purchaser, and that to him they owe all they have and all they ever hope to be.
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Personal responsibility to the Redeemer who purchased, and to the heavenly Father who provided the gracious arrangement, lies at the foundation of all true consecration to God in Christ. As soon as the believing, grateful, justified one hears of the blessing that has come to him, he properly inquires,—Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? He finds that the new Master does not wish for any except voluntary servants, and that, having provided them release from the sentence of death, he nevertheless would permit them, if they chose, to go back and become again voluntarily the servants of Sin, and to receive the wages of sin, the Second death, as the reward for their voluntary submission again to that task-master. He learns that to be the servants of the new Master is a great privilege,
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a privilege that is enjoyed by all who have the proper spirit. Such hear the words of the Apostle, “I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, and your reasonable service.” They see the apostle’s own example, how, laying aside not only the works of the flesh and the devil, but also laying aside earthly ambitions, aims, prospects and hopes, he gave himself, his time, talent, influence and all he had to the service of the new Master, the Redeemer, and thus to God. They read in his living epistle, in his trials and triumphs through faith in Christ, lessons which some of them at least heartily accept; and as a consequence there have been throughout this Gospel age some who have been glad to own themselves as the bond-servants (slaves) of the Lord Jesus Christ and of our God, whose representative Christ is.
At the opening of the new year, what lesson could be more important to us than this one, that we are not our own, but belong to another; that we are not, therefore, to seek to please ourselves, but to please him, nor to seek to serve self but to serve him, nor to seek or obey self will, but on the contrary his will. This means holiness in the most absolute and comprehensive sense of the word (not only separation from sin to righteousness, but separation from self to the will of God in Christ).
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THE SALT OF THE EARTH AND THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD
“Ye are the salt of the earth … Ye are the light of the world.”—Matt. 5:13,14.
SALT and light are two essentials to humanity, and in nature both are abundantly supplied. Salt enters largely into the composition of both animal and vegetable organisms, and its use as a condiment is much appreciated and to a greater or less extent required by both man and beast. At a very early stage of human progress salt became an important element of commerce, and it is believed that the very oldest trade routes were created for traffic in this needful and much valued commodity. Among inland peoples a salt spring was regarded as a special gift of the gods, and so a religious significance began by and by to attach to it; and it was, therefore, as a precious substance, mingled with their offerings to the gods. Homer voiced this sentiment, calling salt divine; and Plato referred to it as “a substance dear to the gods.”
In harmony with its uses and its general appreciation the term salt early came to have a generally recognized symbolic significance (which our Lord utilized and perpetuated) to teach important lessons, both under the old dispensation of the law and under the new dispensation of grace. As a savory article of diet, it symbolized hospitality; and as an antiseptic it signified durability, fidelity, purity. Hence the Bible expression “a covenant of salt” (Num. 18:19), as covenants were ordinarily made over a sacrificial meal in which salt was an important element.—”With all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt.” (Lev. 2:13.) The preservative qualities of salt make it, when so used, a fitting symbol of an enduring compact. The purifying property of salt was referred to in its symbolic use by Elisha in his miracle of the healing of the waters.—2 Kings 2:20-22.
The symbolism of salt, therefore, in the above words of our Lord, is clearly this,—that the influence of the true Christian upon the world is a healing, purifying influence, tending always to the preservation of that which is good from the adverse elements of putrefaction and decay. “Ye are the salt of the earth.” How significant the comparison!
These words also indicate a responsibility on the part of Christians toward the world in general. Though they are not of the world, even as Christ was not of the world (John 17:16), but separated from it, a peculiar people, chosen of God, they are not to forget that this very separation and exaltation to fellowship, communion and cooperation with God, is, not to cultivate in them a pride of aristocracy, but for the purpose of blessing the world; for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son to redeem them (John 3:16), and Christ likewise so loved the world as freely to become the instrument of Jehovah for its salvation.—John 6:51; 10:18; Heb. 2:9; Rom. 5:18,19.
We note further that these statements are in the present tense,—Ye are the salt and the light,—even now, before the time for the general blessing of all the families of the earth through the Church glorified. We call to mind also the exhortation of the Apostle Paul,—”Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be always with grace seasoned with salt,” the appetizing salt of purity, righteousness, truth.—Col. 4:5,6.
The proper attitude of the Christian toward the world is thus shown to be, not that of a proud, stoical indifference, but that of a noble, generous, loving benevolence which, while it keeps entirely separate from its spirit, from its unholy aims, ambitions and doings, is ever ready to bless and, by precept and example, to point to the way of life and holiness. It is not that attitude which proudly says, “I am holier than thou,”
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but which, on the contrary, says, “I am no better than thou, except for the influences of divine grace, which are free to all who will accept them. By grace, I am what I am; yet still my shortcomings necessitate the merit of my all-sufficient Advocate.” It is not necessary that these sentiments should be expressed in words; for actions speak louder than words, and their testimony is much more potent. The testimony of a holy walk and conversation cannot fail to be to the glory of God, to the wisdom and excellence of righteousness, to the reproof of unrighteousness, and to the fact of a coming judgment in which righteousness shall surely triumph.—John 16:8; Acts 24:25.
“Salt is good,” said Jesus, referring to its symbolism of purity, righteousness, and to its cleansing, healing and preserving influence; “have salt [purity, righteousness] in yourselves.” (Mark 9:50.) If we have not the salt in ourselves, how can we be the salt of the earth? If we are not truly and sincerely righteous, how can we exert upon others the cleansing, healing influence? Mere outward profession of righteousness will not avail as a substitute for the salt of actual and sincere holiness. Mere profession has no healing properties, and can never fulfil our obligations toward the world. Therefore, let us have the salt of actual holiness in ourselves; so shall we be known and read of men to the praise of God.
Under this same speaking symbol our Lord also adds a word of warning, saying,—”If the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” So if the Christian who once had the salt of righteousness in himself should turn again like the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire; if he should wilfully and persistently fall away from his righteousness, he is “thenceforth good for nothing.” (Heb. 6:4-8; 10:26-31,38,39.) How important then that we not only have salt in ourselves, but that we continue to retain its healthful properties!
This same class Jesus also declared to be “the light of the world.” Although they do not yet shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of God for the enlightening of the whole world, they are nevertheless luminous even now, and their light may shine within a smaller radius for the blessing of all who will receive it. And the Lord’s solicitude for the benighted world, as well as for his saints, is shown in his exhortation to the latter to let their light shine.—”Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” He also counsels the setting of our light in a position where it may dispel as much as possible of the darkness of this world. We are therefore not to put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick. Zeal for the Lord needs no further exhortation to this duty and privilege; for, like him, all who have his spirit or disposition in the matter will find in this duty and privilege their meat and drink. It will be their joy to let the light that has illuminated their darkness—the light of God’s truth and of his holy spirit—shine out through them upon the darkness of others.
Thus, through the salt and the light of God’s people, a measure of blessing comes to the world, even before its day of blessing. And at this end of the age we may with some degree of definiteness sum up their effects. A little observation shows that all the blessings of temporal prosperity included under the term “civilization” are due to the influences, direct and indirect, of those comparatively few people who, during this
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Gospel age, have been the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Civilization is simply the indirect result of the measures of salt and light that have been in the world up to this present time. The faithful people of God have held up the light of divine truth as prominently as they could; and from it they have reasoned of righteousness and of a coming judgment; they have endeavored to salt the minds of men with as much as possible of the knowledge of the principles of righteousness exemplified in their own characters, and have urged their adoption; and to the extent to which these have operated the world has been profited.
The Lord, who foresaw the end from the beginning, knew that, with all their salt and all their light, his people would not be able to accomplish for the world in general more than this, until the appointed time for their exaltation with himself to power and great glory. But even this work of civilization is of great value as preparatory to the greater future work of restitution, and also in facilitating the special work of this Gospel age, of taking out a people prepared for the Lord, to be kings and priests unto God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ.
Then, beloved heirs of the promises of God, to whom it is the Father’s good pleasure to give the Kingdom, “have salt in yourselves,” and forget not that, being thus salted, ye are the salt of the earth, so that your very presence is a rebuke to iniquity, and its continuance a living testimony to the beauty of holiness and the power of divine grace. Let us endeavor also so to focus the light of divine truth and its holy spirit that from the glowing focus of a chastened and purified character the light may radiate again to the blessing of all who will heed it, to the warning of all who will not, and to the praise of the great center and source of all light—God himself.
MRS. M. F. RUSSELL.
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“THE SPADE AND THE BIBLE”
“IT has been tacitly assumed by the critical school that the art of writing was practically unknown in Palestine before the age of David. Therefore little historical credence can be placed in the early records of the Hebrew people. The events not being recorded at the time of their occurrence, the Bible history of them became traditional and mythical before they were finally written.
“Even Renan allies himself to this theory in his ‘History of Israel.’ He distinctly says that writing was unknown in the day of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and laughs at the mistakes of Moses.
“In 1888, some Fellahin in upper Egypt, while digging for nitrous soil to enrich their gardens, accidentally dug in upon certain clay tablets. It was a discovery, and the scholars were soon on the trail. Several hundred tablets were found. Prof. Sayce, of Oxford, has been at work deciphering these tablets found at Tel El Amar-na, and what do they turn out to be, now that they are deciphered? They turn out to be documents older than the Exodus, and copies of letters between Egypt and the nations of the East. Among these are communications from Palestine. From these tablets Prof. Sayce tells us that he learns that knowledge was far advanced in that early period, and that philosophy and science were common. That ancient period had advanced schools of learning, and many cities had as a possession large public libraries. For example, the old name of Hebron, a town of Judah, was Kirjath-Sepher; this was the name of the town before the Hebrews took it. That name literally means Book-Town, and it was called Book-Town because it was the seat of a public library. That was away back, centuries before the organization of the kingdom of Israel.
“But this is not all. What is more remarkable is this: The site of the city Ur of the Chaldees, the native place of Abraham, has been unearthed, and even there a library has been discovered showing that Abraham’s people were a literary people. There are to-day in the British Museum some of the sacred songs which they sung in that far-off age, and also a carved signet which they used for the stamping of deeds and contracts. This marvelously confirms the story in the Book of Genesis and testifies to the correctness of Moses who tells us that Abraham bought the cave of Machpelah from the children of Heth in a business way.
“You see the point of all this. It is this: The credibility of Scripture has been assailed, since the beginning of the present century, on the ground that the narratives contained in it are not contemporaneous with the events they profess to record, because they represent an incredible amount of civilization as existing in the ancient Eastern world, and because they are inconsistent with the accounts of classical writers, and because writing was little known or practiced at so early a date. Discoveries show that there is absolutely no ground for such adverse reasoning, and that its premise is wholly false. There was a high civilization back there; the art of writing was well known, and the state of things was precisely what the Bible represents and requires. The spade has actually uncovered the old civilization, and we see it. Its products are before our eyes, and seeing is believing.
“Sargon’s name occurs but once in the Old Testament. (Isa. 20:1.) As no trace of Sargon could be found in classical writers, he was objected to as fictitious. The finger of the skeptic pointed to the name ‘Sargon’ in ridicule, and the Bible was charged with putting off fiction as history. How strange! The quaint old tablets of Nineveh have been exhumed, and with them the history of Sargon. It is found that so far from being a fiction he was one of the greatest monarchs that ever ruled in Assyria, and that his reign lasted seventeen years. The very event recorded by the prophet Isaiah, in connection with which his name is mentioned, is recorded in Sargon’s annals, and unexpected light is thrown upon the Scripture.
“In the Bible there are several allusions to a people called the Hittites. Objectors to the historical truth of the narratives of the Old Testament, like Professor F. Newman, declared that these allusions destroyed the credibility of the Bible. There was no reference to this people anywhere in classical writers. The Bible stood alone in affirming that they once existed. It had no witnesses to confirm or corroborate its statements. Thus it was until a few years ago. But now Hittites’ monuments, disinterred, are in all the leading museums of the world. This lost kingdom has been reclaimed. Its very wealth has been dug up, and it is found that it existed before the days of Abraham and long after his days, and was equal in greatness and civilization and in military progress to Assyria and Egypt. Whole volumes full of real thrill have been written during the past ten years, upon this wonderful find of the Hittites.
“Take one other case. In 2 Chron. 33:11, it is said that when Esarhaddon, King of Assyria, took Manasseh captive, he carried him to Babylon. For a long time the objectors to the Bible pointed their fingers at this record and said, here is one of the mistakes of the Bible. ‘It could not be, for Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, and not Babylon.’ In his excavations of Nineveh, George Smith unearthed a whole library, in the palace of King Assur-banapal. It is called the stone library, for its books were clay tablets baked into stone. On these clay tablets he found written the very story of the Chronicles, and written there as it is written in the Bible. And more than that he found it explained how it came that Esarhaddon carried Manasseh to Babylon and not to Nineveh. To keep down discontent in Babylon, which was a province of Nineveh, the king built a palace there and made it his second capital, and carried prisoners of war to it and thus honored it.
“Even in the nineteenth century God keeps on confirming his own Book by unexpected surprises. And what is noticeable is this: These surprises come as needed rebuttals of specific objections against the Bible. Now remember this, that every wonderful answer to the scoff and objection of the skeptic which exploration gives us is not only a foe of skepticism, it is at the
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same time a friend of faith. A solid and irresistible answer to an objection against the Bible is a solid and powerful argument in support of the Bible.
“As we behold the nineteen centuries after Christ confronted, by means of the pick and spade of the explorer, with the nineteen centuries before Christ, and learn for the first time how to answer objections, which for ages seemed to be unanswerable, and to explain difficulties which until now seemed too inexplicable, may we not learn a lesson of faith and of patience? Learn patience, and wait for God’s own time as to the removal of difficulties that are still unsolved. Learn faith, and sit down as calmly in the presence of acknowledged objections as you do in the presence of objections which have been reconciled and which you now call harmonious facts. By means of the story of the past learn to trust the Bible for the future.
—Dr. David Gregg.”
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QUESTIONS OF GENERAL INTEREST
CONCERNING THE EPISTLE OF JAMES
Question. I notice in the columns of the WATCH TOWER frequent reference to the Epistle of James, applying its statements to Christian believers, the same as the other New Testament writings. In the October ’96 issue you called attention to the remarkable fulfilment before our eyes of a prophecy by James (5:1-8); and his exhortation, “Be patient, brethren,” you applied to Christian believers. Also frequently you have quoted James 1:18, applying it to Christians. In the TOWER discussing Faith and Prayer Cures, etc., you cited James 5:14-16, claiming that it referred to Christians seriously sick as a chastisement for sins of omission or commission, and that the prayer should be for the forgiveness of confessed sins and the restoration of the transgressor to divine favor, as in verse 16;—and that the word “if” of verse 15 would be better translated though, etc. And finally, in the January 1 issue (page 7), discussing the true Israel, you apply James 1:1, as meaning the true Jews residing in various parts of the civilized world, to whom the gospel was preached “first” (Acts 3:26) and who believed—many of them at and shortly after Pentecost.
Now my question is, How can we harmonize these teachings with an article which appeared in the WATCH TOWER, representing the Epistle of James as addressed not to Christians but to Jews?
Answer. You are correct in supposing that the two positions are antagonistic and not harmonizable. The article to which you refer last, as being in conflict with our general presentations, was not an editorial article. Nevertheless, the Editor does not claim that his negligence in the matter is a sufficient excuse. It is a part of his duty to be critical, and to exclude whatever his judgment does not approve; and he now promises that by the Lord’s grace he will hereafter be still more careful of his stewardship,—to the end that ZION’S WATCH TOWER may ever speak as an oracle of God.
Now that this matter is corrected a weight is lifted from our conscience. Had the article in question been an editorial we would have corrected it long ago.
WAS MOTHER EVE RANSOMED?
Question. If it be true, as you seem to prove that the Scriptures teach, that the man Christ Jesus gave himself as the ransom or corresponding price for Adam, and an ungenerated race in his loins for the ungenerated race of Adam in his loins at the time of his disobedience and which since born has shared, naturally, every feature of his sentence,—how would it be with Mother Eve? She was not in Adam at the time of transgression, but was a separate individual accountable for her own deeds and the first to participate in the sin of disobedience and hence a sharer before Adam in the sentence of death. How was her ransom paid? Or was it ever paid, and will she ever be released from the sentence?
Answer. Originally Eve was a part of Adam’s body; and after she was separated from him physically she was not separated from him actually; but, as he expressed it, she was still bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh;—they were not twain but one flesh. Adam was not given to Eve to be her help-mate, but she was given to him to be a help meet (suitable) for him. Not that this signified a right on Adam’s part to treat Eve as a slave, or to be cruel, or abusive, or even unkind to her, as some of the fallen race today seem to suppose. Quite the contrary, Adam was a true man and loved, planned for and cared for Eve “as his own body.” In the divine division care had been taken to adapt each to the other’s necessities. Adam, the stronger physically and mentally, enjoyed having just such a helper as needed his care and love. Eve, as the “weaker vessel,” possessed delicacy of mind and manner as well as of physique which drew toward her the tenderest and noblest sentiments of her royal husband, whose pleasure it was to grant her a share in all the blessings and honors of his realm, as a queen.
But they were not twain, but one; and of that one Adam was the head. In dealing with them God did not recognize them separately but as one. Adam represented not only his own individual person but also his wife’s person; for she was “his own body,” “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh;”—she was part of himself.
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Hence it is written, “All in Adam die:” Eve’s identity was so linked with Adam’s that, even if she had not sinned in partaking of the forbidden fruit, she would as part of him, as his partner, have shared his penalty—death. And, similarly, although Eve was “first in the transgression,” her act did not imperil the race; because the race was not in her, but in Adam. (1 Cor. 15:22.) It was “By one man’s disobedience” that “sin entered into the world and death by [as the result of] sin.”—Rom. 5:12-19.
Moreover, it is evident that, the accountability being in Adam as the head of the family, Eve’s deception and transgression need not necessarily have brought death even upon herself: she probably would have been disciplined, however. The principle of this judgment is shown by the Lord under the Law Covenant, which, formulated by the same Creator, upheld the same arrangement and recognized the husband and father as in every way the head and representative of the family. For instance, if any man vowed a vow to the Lord he could not escape it; but if a wife or a daughter vowed a vow unto the Lord it was void except as ratified by the husband or father. (Num. 30:2,5,8,13,16.) In other words, God has not only established the family relationship by the laws of nature in adapting the man to be the head of the family and the woman to be his helper, but he clearly expressed this in the Law given to Israel which is “honorable,” “just” and “good.”—Rom. 7:12.
Looking along these strongly marked lines of divine providence we can see clearly that Eve had recognition of the Lord only as a part of Adam: hence we can see that this not only involved her in his transgression and its penalty, death, but also that the redemption of Adam implied also the redemption of Eve as a part of Adam, “his body.” This close relationship between the husband and wife in the divine order is clearly stated by the Apostle Paul.—Eph. 5:22-33.
* * *
Now many marriages are not after the divine pattern. The fall of the race, mentally, morally and physically, has affected its various members, some more and some less. All men and all women have lost more or less of the noble character possessed by the first perfectly adapted pair. It is not surprising, therefore, that there are now many mis-fit unions and consequent unhappiness; especially when the divine order of adaptability is not recognized. Following the divine model a man should avoid marrying a woman who is his superior as much as one who is his inferior: because in the inferior he could not have real fellowship, she being unequal as a mate in life; while with the superior there would be a continual conflict because of his incapacity to fill properly the office of husband or head to a superior. Likewise a woman should guard specially against marrying a man her inferior, whom she could not look up to as a fit husband and head of the family according to the divine command, “Wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the Church: and he is the savior of the body.”—Eph. 5:22,23.
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As man has sunken into barbarism, woman sank with him; as man has risen in civilization, woman has risen with him; so also have man’s subjects, the lower animals, and the vegetable kingdom, been cursed or blessed by his degradation or elevation. It is the operation of the divine law. The schools and seminaries for girls are the provisions of the men as truly as are the schools for boys. The gradual changing of the laws, adapting them to the advancing civilization, takes cognizance of woman’s rising conditions as well as of man’s, yet these laws are framed by men.
Human laws, based upon divine laws, take cognizance of the husband and father as the representative not only of his wife, who is a part of himself, but also of his minor children, in matters of general welfare, just as it was with Israel, and just as it was before sin entered Eden. The endeavor in modern times to destroy the unity of the family and to make husband and wife twain instead of one is in harmony with other delusions after which mankind are clutching in the hope of thereby remedying present evils. The mothers who have no influence upon their husbands and sons, and the sisters who have no influence upon their brothers and fathers, thereby prove themselves unworthy of a franchise. Those who have such an influence have no need of a franchise, are better in harmony with the Lord’s order, and generally realize it.
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LYING TO THE HOLY SPIRIT
—FEB. 7.—ACTS 4:32-5:11.—
“Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”—1 Sam. 16:7.
THE number of believers in Jerusalem was now considerable. Their new faith broke down the walls of prejudice and tended to bring rich and poor to the plane of common brotherhood in Christ. This is always the tendency with those who receive the gospel of the Lord Jesus into good and honest hearts: they are “pitiful,” “kind one to another” and “love as brethren.” Experience teaches us, however, that so long as there are hypocrites, who follow merely for the loaves and fishes, and so long as we are without the inspired
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apostles, possessed of superhuman wisdom in discerning spirits and rebuking them, and so long as
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even the true-hearted have such various developments of character and judgment, it is unreasonable to expect that believers could dwell together harmoniously and to mutual benefit. The incapable ones always feel themselves the most capable, and are the least willing to be guided by the judgment of others. The most capable are the most humble, the least disposed to grasp authority and to “exercise Lordship” such as would be necessary for the proper control of the incompetent. Hence, Christian people of experience and judgment have reached the conclusion that general communism of goods such as was practiced for a time in the early Church as narrated in this lesson could not be profitably practiced by Christian people in any age or country, for the same reasons that it was unsuccessful in the early Church. When that which is perfect shall have come, it will be possible for those possessed not only of perfect hearts (wills) but also possessed of perfect brains and bodies, to use communistic principles properly and to their general advantage. But all people of judgment and experience know that this time has not yet come. The failure of this early Church community and the failure of scores of communities since then is ample proof of this.*
*See article, “They Had All Things in Common,” in our issue of Sept. 1, ’95.
(33) Evidently the chief subject of discourse with the apostles was the resurrection of our Lord Jesus from the dead and the proof which this afforded of several things: (1) That he was approved of God, that he was what he claimed to be, the Messiah, and not an impostor; (2) that his death was the great sin-offering, the ransom price for the whole world; (3) that in his name was forgiveness of sins and all power for reconciliation with the Father; (4) that a New Dispensation of grace, mercy, forgiveness of sins had displaced the Law Dispensation of Justice, and that, now, not only could there be acceptance with God through Christ, but a high calling to jointheirship with the Messiah in his Kingdom soon to be established, in which all the families of the earth shall be blessed. The apostles hung the entire weight of their testimony upon this one matter—the resurrection of our Lord. And the Apostle Paul’s preaching, later, is no less emphatic upon this than the Apostle Peter’s at the time of this lesson, for he declares,—If Christ be not risen your faith is vain, our preaching is vain, ye are yet in your sins, and we (apostles) are false witnesses, because we have testified that God raised up Christ from the dead, whom he raised not up, if so be that the resurrection of the dead is an impossibility.—1 Cor. 15:15-18.
(34) The true spirit of Christ is indicated by the fact that the needy were not suffered to lack while the others had plenty. The Apostle James calls attention to this matter, saying, He who seeth his brother have need and shutteth up his bowels of compassion against him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? And again, we are told by the divine Word, that it is not sufficient that we should express sympathy and good wishes, saying, Depart and be fed and clothed, but give not those things which are necessary to these ends. Undoubtedly, it is the design of the divine plan that the inequalities of the present time—poverty in the midst of wealth—shall be to some extent an opportunity to those who have this world’s goods, and a test to them of their faithfulness as stewards. And the Scriptures pertinently inquire, If ye love not your brother whom ye have seen, how can ye love God whom ye have not seen? Hence, the Lord’s work and the Lord’s poor are permitted by him to be in need sometimes, in order to furnish opportunities to test those who have means entrusted to them. He who is unfaithful as a steward of earthly wealth need scarcely expect to be entrusted with spiritual riches.
It appears from the account that the apostles did not institute the community of goods in the early Church, rather it was the spontaneous sentiment of the believers; and the apostles under the divine guidance did not hinder it, evidently to the intent that an object lesson might be furnished and the importance of consecration illustrated in the story of Ananias and Sapphira. The writer first mentioned instances of those who honestly consecrated all of their property to the general good. Notable amongst these was Barnabas who afterwards was the associate of the Apostle Paul in doing a great work. The principal figures in the lesson, however, are Ananias and Sapphira. None had been commanded of the Lord to give all their property to the general treasury; nor had there been any request to do so, although it is only a reasonable service for all who realize that they were “bought with a price.” But God wants only a free-will consecration. Ananias and his wife saw others do this and were probably anxious for the honor and praise bestowed upon such liberal givers, and concluded that they would make a reputation for themselves among the believers; and at the same time hold back a sufficiency for future requirements. There was nothing necessarily wrong in such a provision, reserving for their own personal use a portion of the proceeds of the sale of their property. The wrong came in the attempted deception of the Church, in the attempt to have the apostles and the fellow-believers think that they were exercising all the faith and practicing all the self-denial, which some others had practiced. The Apostle Peter indicates that this was not merely lying to the Church and attempting to deceive
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the Church, but more, it was an attempted deception of the Holy Spirit.
The penalty was death to both the participants, for husband and wife alike united in deception. The Lord would evidently thus teach the Church, (1) that while men might be deceived, it was impossible to deceive God; and (2) that such a fraud is a very heinous sin in God’s sight.
The question naturally arises, Was this death of Ananias and Sapphira merely a prompt infliction of the Adamic death, under whose sentence they already were? Or, was it the infliction of the Second Death, and does it teach us that the attempted deception of the Holy Spirit is punishable by the Second Death; and that there is no hope in any sense of the word for Ananias and Sapphira. No one, we believe, can satisfactorily answer this question, because the facts relating to the matter are too indefinite. For instance, we do not know whether they had “passed from death unto life” (reckonedly from the Adamic death to life in Christ). We do not know that they had more information on this subject than some who followed the Lord and to whom he said, “Ye follow me, because of the loaves and the fishes.” Ananias and Sapphira may never have been true converts at heart, but merely, yet in their sins, have been struck with the possibilities of the growing community, and acquainted with some in it; they perhaps thought it a good opportunity to fix themselves for future days, and in order to have a standing and place in the community were willing to give part of the proceeds of their property. If this was their state of heart, if they had never really received the grace of God, then we believe that their death was merely a sooner accomplishment of the general sentence of the Adamic death and not Second death; and we should expect that the due time will come in the Millennial Kingdom, when the blinded eyes of their understanding would be opened, and they should see matters in a full, clear and proper light with the opportunity of either accepting or rejecting God’s provision. But if they had come to a clear knowledge of the truth, had tasted of the heavenly gift and had been made partakers of the holy spirit, and then sinned willfully in this matter, we should understand that their death was the Second death, the penalty for their own willful transgression. The particulars are not stated, nor was it necessary to the narrative. The lesson to the early Church and the lesson to us is the same in either case; namely, that it is impossible to deceive God who discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart.
This entire lesson brings forcibly to our thought the fact that every “new creature in Christ” has consecrated something to the Lord. Our offering should be not merely a portion of our substance, but all of it, including ourselves—time, influence, possessions—and these we may lay not at the apostles’ feet, but at the feet of our Lord, in consecration. We cannot refrain from the thought—How many who have consecrated their all to the Lord are attempting not only to deceive the Lord, but to deceive also themselves, and to give a portion only of that which they have consecrated?
This is the great point of this lesson to all who are of this consecrated class; and the Apostle Peter’s words to Ananias should be carefully weighed and applied by each one who has professed full consecration to the Lord—”While it [thy possessions] remained was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power?” We may apply this to ourselves, and say, The Lord did not compel my consecration; it was a voluntary thing, even though admitted to be a reasonable service; and as we have hitherto seen in the Lord’s estimation, it is a very serious matter to make vows and afterward to re-consider, or attempt to take back, that which we have consecrated to him.
No wonder great fear came upon all the Church—the feeling of responsibility; a feeling that in contracting with the Lord they were engaged in serious business. And so the Apostle says to the consecrated, “Let us fear, lest a promise having been left us, any of you should seem to come short of it.”
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“OBEY GOD RATHER THAN MEN”
—FEB. 14.—ACTS 5:17-32.—
THE phenomenal success of the gospel under the apostles’ preaching, in the power of the holy spirit, soon awakened bitter opposition on the part of the rulers of the Jews. In a previous lesson we saw that they did not hesitate to put the apostles in prison; and how they sought to convict them of crime for healing the lame man, in the name of Jesus. Their opposition, instead of dying out, increased as they perceived the wonderful strides of progress made by the new doctrine. They felt compelled to make another attempt to head off what they considered the heresy of the Nazarene.
(17,18) The two principal sects amongst the Jews at this time were the Pharisees and Sadducees. The Pharisees made loud professions of “holiness,” and did much in the way of outward display, which our Lord, who could read the heart, declared was hypocrisy; while the Sadducees, better educated as a class and less orthodox, were more after the sort called “higher critics” to-day; or even beyond them, they might be termed to some extent agnostic,—their faith considerably resembling that of the “Reformed Jews” of to-day. They believed something of the divine promises, but expected them to be fulfilled in a partial manner
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and in a natural way. They evidently did not expect a supernatural Messiah. They did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. They denied that there are angels or any spirit beings not visible to flesh and blood. The chief priest at this time, we are told by the lesson, belonged to this party. He and his sect were filled with indignation against the new doctrine, for in every sense of the word it specially opposed their teaching—much more so than it opposed Phariseeism.
The expression, “the high priest rose up,” does not signify that he had been sitting or lying down and merely stood upon his feet, but might more properly be translated “the high priest was aroused.” He and his party, the Sadducees, had hitherto been content to very generally disdain the masses and their views, and to pay little attention to them as inferior in wisdom and judgment on such questions. But now seeing the interest being taken by the public in the apostles’ preaching, which declared not only the resurrection of our Lord, but that through the merit of his sacrifice a resurrection to a future life would be provided for all, they were thoroughly “aroused.” In the teachings of the apostles they were meeting with a logic which they had never encountered in arguing with the Pharisees. Accordingly they again sent and laid violent hands upon the apostles and put them into prison.
(19-23) In harmony with the other miraculous interventions of Providence at that time, for the establishment of the Church, the Lord wrought a miracle for their deliverance from prison; but instead of telling them to flee for their lives, he instructed them to go immediately again into the temple and preach as before; and this they did, going early in the morning. Great was the surprise of the General Synod or Great Council of the Jews, which had been convened for the purpose of condemning the apostles, when they learned that the prisoners were not in prison, but preaching as before in the temple.
(24-26) The officials were in consternation. It was bad enough to have men teach the gospel with such power and demonstration as they could not gainsay or resist, but to find that these men even when shut up in prison got out again by miraculous power, was enough to startle them, enough to make them consider afresh whether or not they might not be fighting against God. But they were self-willed men, not in a condition of heart to be influenced by anything, ordinary or extraordinary, which still left them their place and power. They would continue their investigation and endeavor to stop the preaching of the gospel, consequently the apostles were arrested again; but this time with great moderation, for fear of the people. The rulers were beginning to feel that an impression was being made upon the people and that in proportion as the new doctrine progressed they as teachers and rulers fell into disrepute. Indeed, so clearly did the apostles state the matter that those who believed their teachings could not well regard their spiritual rulers in any other light than that of murderers—murderers of the Messiah, the “Prince of life.”
(27,28) The language of the Council to the apostles when they were arraigned indicates that they realized the situation when they said, you evidently “intend to bring this man’s blood upon us,”—to make the people think that we are responsible for his death.
(29-32) The answer of the apostles shows that they were courageous men. They did not deny their preaching, nor its logical inference as understood by the rulers, for it was so. They merely said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.” God sent us to preach the gospel, to tell the truth about this matter, and we have merely followed divine instructions. How beautiful, how reasonable, how consistent! There was no braggadocia in the apostles’ language. They did not say, You brought us more carefully to-day than yesterday; you are getting a little afraid of the people; you have found that you cannot keep us in prison, for our Lord will deliver us; you are perhaps getting a little in awe of us by this time. They did not say, We will denounce you still more before the people and raise an insurrection and overthrow your power as sacerdotal rulers. Nothing of this kind; merely the unassuming statement, We have merely obeyed God in what we did.
Then follows another discourse similar to the one given the previous Council, explaining about Jesus, his resurrection and exaltation to divine place and power, and to be the Savior and pardon the sins of Israel. They wound up their testimony by citing them the holy spirit which operated through them as corroborating their witness respecting our Lord, his character, his resurrection, his present glory, and his power to save unto the uttermost all that come to the Father through him.
There is a valuable lesson here for all servants of God to-day. We too have a commission from the Lord to preach the gospel, and if we would be approved and hear his “Well done, good, faithful servant,” we must obey God rather than men. Should faithfulness to God bring us into conflict with the religious great ones, we are to be bold for the truth, but moderate and humble in manner and language. Children of God are never anarchists lawless; and their opposition to human arrangements must only be because moved thereto by higher, divine laws and arrangements.
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LETTERS FROM DISTANT COLABORERS
MY DEAR AND BELOVED BROTHER RUSSELL:—At the close of the year I cannot help thanking you for the spiritual pleasure you are rendering me by your esteemed journal, ZION’S WATCH TOWER, which I receive regularly. It is to me like the merchant’s ship—bringing spiritual food from afar. My constant prayer for you is that Jehovah our God may preserve you and Sister Russell for a long time that you may be able to continue the King’s work to convince many souls of the true, blessed hope the whole world may have in the appearance of “this same” Jesus Christ. We are all well. With Christian love and best wishes to yourself and Sister Russell for a happy New Year 1897.
Ever yours in our Lord,
GENTLEMEN:—Four years ago I was brought into contact with the WATCH TOWER, and, reading a little here and there, I supposed it to be the organ of some
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peculiar sort of Universalists, outside the pale of orthodoxy, and threw the papers on one side.
However, I have recently read the three volumes of MILLENNIAL DAWN and am again going through the first volume more carefully and prayerfully; and I have been led to feel that, if this is God’s truth, I want it at any cost. The Plan of the Ages magnifies the goodness of God ten thousand times more than any other system of interpretation or theology I have ever read.
I now turn up the old WATCH TOWERS of 1892 which I carelessly threw aside, and read them with avidity. I think inquirers should begin with the MILLENNIAL DAWN. I enclose $6, and wish you to kindly send me what you can for it.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:—We are having some good times here. Our brother Hart has been amongst us and helped us on. Our class is gradually becoming larger. For the last three weeks our room (which holds about 25) has been almost too small for us. Our tracts (which the Tract Society so kindly sent us) are doing a good work. Brother Guard and myself often go to different parts to circulate them, and now and again a request comes for a DAWN. One brother has already had over twenty copies, as the result of a tract left under his door.
As we go about we find that the harvest is ripening fast; but the laborers are very few. Let us pray with all earnestness that the laborers may increase. I think we may want another supply of tracts soon. This is a very poor neighborhood, and we have had to loan many DAWNS.
Yours in Him,
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DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:—I am deeply thankful to say that we are still holding fast to the truth, and endeavoring to the best of our ability to spread it amongst others. It seems almost miraculous that any should be able to stand, when all the delusions and snares that abound everywhere are taken into consideration; but by the grace of God alone, certainly not by any special ability or firmness on our part, we are thankful to be in the liberty of the truth.
Our work here is moving, though we are not able to chronicle any very remarkable success, if such is to be gauged by the general standard—numbers, etc.; but we are conscious of an increased interest generally, and a joyful acceptance here and there. We earnestly trust the Lord will graciously increase the number, but, dear Brother, as you well know, this is a hard battle; foes within and without are to be met constantly; and we have the ever present consciousness of our own utter weakness and unworthiness. But oh, what a blessed comfort the truth is! How it makes every cross lighter, every problem luminous, in very truth. I know not how I should live through this present period did I not possess its healing and life-giving support; but the sweetest comfort of all is that God is perfect Master of the situation, and that all things will be brought to the best interests of his creatures. If the eternal happiness or woe of our fellow men were absolutely dependent upon our efforts, what a terrible thing life would be; but God and his blessed Son are a thousand times more anxious for the well-being and happiness of mankind than any mortal. With brotherly love to all the brethren and sisters, from Bro. Flack and myself.
Yours in love and service,
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:—The amount of blessing I have derived from studying the Bible, helped by the DAWNS, I cannot describe. Before I knew of them, I plodded wearily through “Butler’s Analogy” and “McCulloch’s Calvinism” and, I might truly say, hundreds of other books, in search of something to satisfy me that Christianity was not cant. I must confess that though I had an earnest desire to know God, and though it is many years since I was converted, yet I did not study the Bible, but only read it now and then.
I have been careless of God, but he has not been careless of me; I have been often unfaithful, and he has ever kindly rebuked me. Now I see his love clearer; now I grasp heavenly things more tenaciously and dare not let go even for a moment. I fail in many things: it grieves me to fail in any thing; and I thank God for his many tokens of love and forgiveness of my follies. Blessed be God for the gift of memory which, though it shows me my sins and shortcomings in the past, also points out the many blessings my poor unworthy self has received in Christ Jesus.
In endeavoring to prove to many professed Christians that “hell” does not mean eternal torture, they have nearly one and all triumphantly pointed to the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. Now, in addition to using your arguments, I have often put the following question, in order to prove that Jesus simply used the story as an illustration, and did not tell it as an actual reality: “Was there any member of the human family who died and went to heaven before Christ died on the cross?” I point out that Jesus tells the story of what happened in the past—”There was a rich man,” etc. If they say “Yes,” I show them they deny that Christ is the only Way to heaven, and this staggers them. If they answer “No,” they condemn their own belief and they stand confounded.
Yours in Christ Jesus,
STEWART J. BELL.
[Our Lord said, “No man hath ascended to Heaven save the Son of Man.”—EDITOR.]
DEARLY BELOVED BRETHREN IN CHRIST:—I was greatly rejoiced over the good news of your dear letter received a few days ago. I have not been so glad for a long while as when I read the statement of my account and saw how good the Lord had been to me that he had put it into some good heart to help me over the great debt I had gotten into. “Thank the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” It was the best news you could tell me just now; and I most heartily thank you for it, and pray that God will bless you and the dear brother who has been such a great help to so many of the Lord’s servants. The WATCH TOWER for Dec. 15th received today and most of it read—with delight. I am so glad with the truths it presents and am perfectly in harmony with you; it is so good and grand to me, and I prize it above money or anything else. I thank the Lord that he has ever brought me in contact with the blessed good tidings proclaimed from God’s Word. I know it is the plain truth, and it is my heart’s desire that I might live in the way that is most pleasing to God, and in all things be subject to the will of God, our blessed Heavenly Father.
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It is becoming more and more light for me since I commenced to hold little meetings here in Denmark. We meet every Friday evening and have Bible readings with explanations, prayer and praise, and it has been very profitable to myself as to many of the dear Christians that have been attending. The circulation of Danish and Swedish tracts and DAWNS progresses, and although the results are not so great as we could wish, nevertheless the truth is spreading and finding some of the Lord’s jewels.
Your brother and fellow-servant in our dear Lord,
JOS. S. WINTER.
Columbia, Central America
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:—Your very kind, loving and refreshing letter bearing date of the 19th ult. is duly received; also that containing Invoice, etc. We are truly glad that Brother Maxon arrived safely and gave you a clear description of the state of affairs. We are truly thankful for kind proposition made. We rejoice in Brother Hay’s good fortune, of which we are partakers. How blessed are they who, possessing this world’s goods, turn the same to good account.
Now, dear Brother, contrary to misunderstanding through communication concerning preaching, we had properly begun with it among the unintelligent, if by any means they could be aroused to an interest in securing DAWN, which would preach more lasting sermons. Being totally blinded, the people exhibited no appreciation for the truth, and we withdrew. We discern the necessity of associating preaching with the circulation of the Dawn. We gather from “Suggestive Hints to Colporteurs” that a house to house circulation is preferable, though preaching may not be ignored; and we are again preparing to go out preaching. We are experiencing severe storming by the Adversary; but occasionally realizing a gleam of sunshine amid the storm. We are having daily manifestations of divine providence and favor.
Our warfare out here is manifold, having to fight against the depressed state of things, the depravity of our surroundings, our own internal and external conflicts, etc.; so that we must be very often at the throne of grace, to implore the aid of our sovereign Lord and Head. We trust you will not cease to pray for us. We believe that grace will be given God’s people equivalent to, or much more than, the evil with which they are surrounded. Thank God, we are growing in grace. The beam is in process of being cast entirely out of our own eyes; then shall we be able to see the motes of others.
It affords us great joy to see the report for 1896 in last TOWER, and to know of the active interest taken in the work by the brethren and sisters everywhere. May we all continue faithful unto the end.
Yours in the hope of the High Calling,
ISAIAH RICHARDS & LOUIS A. FACEY.
[These two brethren were formerly representatives of the American Bible Society. After they got hold of present truth and it got hold of them they could do no less than spread it and are now colporteuring for DAWN as “Bible Keys,” preaching and circulating O.T. TRACTS. They are full-blooded Jamaica negros.
Brother Maxon, a white man, converted by these brethren last year, called on us recently and gave a most excellent report of their zeal, patience, energy, devotion, ability and full consecration to the Lord.—EDITOR.]
Switzerland and Germany
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:—Inclosed you will find an order for books. My labors with translations into French continue. Meantime I am using the German literature and making efforts to reach some of the many Germans of Switzerland and Germany itself. I have sent out over 4,000 tracts and, praise God, here and there some are awaking and are writing for more reading matter. Have also put notices of M.D. into different papers, having received $15.00 from a brother for that purpose. Several booksellers are now offering it for sale; another puts it into his showwindow; and with another I am corresponding about arrangements.
One editor of a religious Sunday paper printed the notice of M.D. twice free of charge. I sent him the three volumes. In the notice I offered to loan the first to all lovers of the Truth and received many a friendly request for the same, mostly from among the poor. My German correspondence is thus increasing. While my efforts have been chiefly among the Germans of Switzerland, I am of the opinion that there remains much
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work to be done on the mainland of Europe.
The whole month of December I had almost daily some orders or requests for the German DAWN; some came from old Deaf Hospital women. It seems that a great hunger and seeking after the truth—to know more about the glorious Millennial day, the dear Gospel of the true Kingdom and the wondrous plan of the ages—is prevailing in Switzerland. Praise the Lord!
A German periodical would be very appropriate at this time, containing TOWER articles and probably answers to correspondents; and thus the bond of fellowship amongst the true believers would be strengthened and the interest, I believe, much increased. There are a number scattered here and there who would rejoice much over such an undertaking and support it according to their means. We hope that something may be done soon. I took the matter to the Lord in prayer. Hope you will think favorably of the suggestion and give us your idea and advice in the matter.
The other day I received a request from a missionary in a neighboring city for the loan of some DAWNS for a number of earnest Christians. Thus the interest increases. Will close with saying that I am always glad to receive the TOWER, and constrained to give thanks for, and pray for the continuance of, the blessings and favors of God our Father and our Lord Jesus toward me and you all and those that are His in every place.
Yours in our dear Redeemer,
[Sister Mattern reports that while as a nurse in a hospital in Hamburg she introduced DAWN and that five other Sisters there are deeply interested in the subject and are having Bible-study meetings and suffering reproaches, being in danger of losing their positions. Sister Giesecke is also doing a good work loaning DAWNS, circulating tracts, etc., in Germany.
All things considered, it has been about decided that we will start a small (4 page monthly) German TOWER. The price will be 12 cents per year for single copies; 5 copies monthly for a year 50 cents; 12 copies monthly for a year $1.00. We shall be glad to hear from all of our interested German friends, soon as convenient, respecting their interest in this part of the one harvest work.—EDITOR.]