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VOL. XIX. JANUARY 1, 1898. No. 1
Zion’s Watch Tower for 1898………………….. 2
Will It Be a Year of Blessing?……………….. 3
Joseph L. Russell, Deceased………………….. 4
“Thou Shalt Guide Me With
Thy Counsel”………………………….. 5
“Tempted in All Points Like as
We Are”………………………………. 9
The Beginning of Jesus’ Ministry……………… 14
Interesting Letters…………………………. 16
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THIS JOURNAL AND ITS MISSION
THIS journal is set for the defence of the only true foundation of the Christian’s hope now being so generally repudiated,—Redemption through the precious blood of “the man Christ Jesus who gave himself a ransom [a corresponding price, a substitute] for all.” (1 Pet. 1:19; 1 Tim. 2:6.) Building up on this sure foundation the gold, silver and precious stones (1 Cor. 3:11-15; 2 Pet. 1:5-11) of the Word of God, its further mission is to—”Make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery which … has been hid in God, … to the intent that now might be made known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God”—”which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed.”—Eph. 3:5-9,10.
It stands free from all parties, sects and creeds of men, while it seeks more and more to bring its every utterance into fullest subjection to the will of God in Christ, as expressed in the Holy Scriptures. It is thus free to declare boldly whatsoever the Lord hath spoken;—according to the divine wisdom granted unto us, to understand. Its attitude is not dogmatical, but confident; for we know whereof we affirm, treading with implicit faith upon the sure promises of God. It is held as a trust, to be used only in his service; hence our decisions relative to what may and what may not appear in its columns must be according to our judgment of his good pleasure, the teaching of his Word, for the upbuilding of his people in grace and knowledge. And we not only invite but urge our readers to prove all its utterances by the infallible Word to which reference is constantly made, to facilitate such testing.
TO US THE SCRIPTURES CLEARLY TEACH
That the Church is “the Temple of the Living God”—peculiarly “His workmanship;” that its construction has been in progress throughout the Gospel age—ever since Christ became the world’s Redeemer and the chief corner stone of this Temple, through which, when finished, God’s blessings shall come “to all people,” and they find access to him.—1 Cor. 3:16,17; Eph. 2:20-22; Gen. 28:14; Gal. 3:29.
That meantime the chiseling, shaping and polishing, of consecrated believers in Christ’s atonement for sin, progresses; and when the last of these “living stones,” “elect and precious,” shall have been made ready, the great Master Workman will bring all together in the First Resurrection; and the Temple shall be filled with his glory, and be the meeting place between God and men throughout the Millennium.—Rev. 15:5-8.
That the Basis of Hope, for the Church and the World, lies in the fact that “Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man,” “a ransom for all,” and will be “the true light which lighteth every man thatcometh into the world,” “in due time.”—Heb. 2:9; John 1:9; 1 Tim. 2:5,6.
That the Hope of the Church is that she may be like her Lord, “see him as he is,” be “partaker of the divine nature,” and share his glory as his joint-heir.—1 John 3:2; John 17:24; Rom. 8:17; 2 Pet. 1:4.
That the present mission of the Church is the perfecting of the saints for the future work of service; to develop in herself every grace; to be God’s witness to the world; and to prepare to be the kings and priests of the next age.—Eph. 4:12; Matt. 24:14; Rev. 1:6; 20:6.
That the hope for the World lies in the blessings of knowledge and opportunity to be brought to all by Christ’s Millennial Kingdom—the restitution of all that was lost in Adam, to all the willing and obedient, at the hands of their Redeemer and his glorified Church.—Acts 3:19-21; Isa. 35.
CHARLES T. RUSSELL, Editor.
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WHAT SAY THE SCRIPTURES ABOUT SPIRITISM?
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PATENT BINDERS FOR ZION’S WATCH TOWER
These hold two years’ issues which can be added just as received and kept clean. All interested readers should preserve one copy of each issue for future reference. These binders will henceforth be supplied at 50 cents each, including postage.
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DO YOU DESIRE ZION’S WATCH TOWER DURING 1898?
Please notice the address tag on your paper. It indicates the date to which your subscription is paid. If it does not agree with your record, please drop a card at once, explaining.
If you desire the TOWER, but cannot pay just now, drop a card so stating, so that your name be not dropped.
If you are unable to pay at all, you will see above that the Lord has made full provision for you as one of “THE LORD’S POOR.” All such are requested to apply each December. Like all of God’s gifts, a desire and a request are necessary to obtain them. A Postal Card request will do.
If we do not thus hear from you, your name will be dropped at once, as we cannot know that you desire its visits further. Then, if you should write later, it would cause us extra trouble to reset your name for the list.
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WILL IT BE A YEAR OF BLESSING?
DEAR FELLOW Pilgrims on the “narrow way” to the Heavenly Kingdom, we feel for you an earnest brotherly love and take this opportunity at the beginning of a new year to tell you of it, and to formally express to you our earnest wish that the year beginning may be a very happy and a very favorable one for us all—as new creatures in Christ Jesus. And we would fain say something that would be helpful in this direction. What shall we say?
We would remind you and ourselves that the amount of blessing that shall come to us each will depend almost entirely on the course we shall pursue in seeking those blessings. It will not depend on God; for he sets us at rest on that point, by assuring us in advance of his willingness to help and bless us, along certain lines which he has foreordained as the best and only proper ones. He thus throws the responsibility upon us. If we follow his directions we shall be blessed: to the extent that we shall neglect the Divine Counselor’s instructions we shall surely fail of the blessings. It is thus that we are to obey the instruction, “Keep yourselves in the love of God.” (Jude 21.) To those who thus obediently abide in God’s love, the lights and the shades of life, its storms and its calms, its sorrows and its joys, are all blessings and helps onward and upward;—”Nearer my God to Thee.”
Nor is it either reasonable or Scriptural to expect that the major portion of our path should be smooth and bestrewn with flowers of prosperity, while we follow in the footsteps of our dear Redeemer. We remember that his path was both rough and thorny, and if ours were very different we should feel sure that we were not walking in his footsteps. And if it were needful that he, the perfect one, should be disciplined and learn obedience by the things which he suffered, much more do we who are imperfect and seriously “out of the way” need to suffer in learning the lesson of obedience to God, enduring the trials which would prove us to be “copies” of God’s dear Son.
Beloved, the more thorough and warm our consecration, the greater will be the progress we shall be able to make in developing the fruits and graces of the spirit. Now what will most help us to be “fervent in spirit,
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serving the Lord?”
We answer, faith! Faith in the exceeding great and precious promises which God has given to us; and faith in God’s testimony that the narrow way alone leads to the glory promised. Obedience naturally follows in the wake of such a faith. We believe, then act accordingly. Hence it is the wise course as well as the Scriptural one to keep in close touch with the Scriptures, God’s presentation of the basis of our faith and hopes, the expositor of our shortcomings and the delineator of the perfection which we are to copy and as nearly as possible attain outwardly as well as in our hearts.
So, then, that the year 1898 shall be one of even more than usual progress and spiritual blessing to us all, we recommend that each of us give more attention than ever before to God’s promises to us as his Church and to the conditions upon which they shall be made sure to us. To this end we commend Sunday meetings and mid-week meetings, where practicable, for our own help and for the helping of others by word and example. We advise also a continuance of the course recommended a short time ago—of reading alternately each Sunday our Lord’s delineation of the graces which will insure his blessing (Matt. 5:1-16) and the Apostle
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Paul’s description of the same graces summed up under the name Love. (1 Cor. 13:1-13.) We have heard from very many already blessed by these readings, and now we desire to urge all who are praying for and hoping for great blessings during the year beginning to try this simple prescription which the Great Physician of our souls has prepared for us. Where we have heard from scores that they have been blessed by this course during the past three months we hope to hear from hundreds and thousands as being similarly blest during the year beginning.
Now another part of the prescription. Let us begin each day with prayer for wisdom and grace that we may serve the Lord acceptably and be a blessing to others and be blest ourselves: and let us close these morning prayers with the inspired petition—“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my Redeemer.” (Psa. 19:14.) Then at the close of each day let us square our day’s account with the Lord at his throne of grace: recounting so far as we are able its opportunities used and neglected, its victories won or its defeats, its self-sacrifices and its selfishnesses;—thanking God for the grace that helped in time of need and apologizing for all errors and defeats, craving forgiveness in the name and merit of our Savior and promising greater faithfulness and zeal by the Lord’s grace the next day. And pray for us and all the interests of the truth and all the dear colaborers, as we also remember you and all the household of faith. These are straight paths for our feet and all those who take them will find them ways of pleasantness and paths of peace for their souls, however stormy the way for the flesh.
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JOSEPH L. RUSSELL, DECEASED.
THE EDITOR has lost his oldest, tried and true friend—his Father according to the flesh, his Brother according to the spirit; well known to quite a number of our readers. He was in his 84th year, and the burdens and disabilities of life under present conditions had gradually come to outweigh its pleasures, so that he was glad to enter into rest;—the rest that remains for the people of God.
The Editor’s mother, a noble Christian woman, whose instructions and example are still fresh to his memory and will never be forgotten, died when he was but nine years old; and from that time his father filled nobly the office of both parents. His care, his admonitions, his help into paths of righteousness will never be forgotten.
But it was after we had come under the first rays of “present truth” that his fellowship became most precious. He was one of the first to accept the harvest message as set forth in ZION’S WATCH TOWER, MILLENNIAL DAWN, etc. Altho not gifted as a teacher of the good tidings, either by voice or pen, he manifested his zeal for the Lord and his cause in various ways—he loaned and gave away thousands of tracts and DAWNS, besides contributing financially for their publication. He was one of the founders of the Tract Society; voluntarily giving $1,000 in the first subscription at its organization,—a large donation for his means. His greatest helpfulness however was in his personal encouragement of the Editor; in every visit and in every letter, he sought to “hold up our hands.” This was specially noticeable at such times as the Lord permitted the great Adversary to assault the work, and the Editor as one of its representatives.
In his case we have been reminded of the Apostle’s words in Hebrews 10:32-34. He had the spirit of martyrdom, and if he did not get into the thickest of the fight and did not bear the brunt of the Enemy’s attacks, he surely was a faithful encourager and “companion of them that were so used” and “had compassion on me in my bonds.” And as the Apostle adds so add we for the encouragement of all such whom the Lord has not assigned to duty in the front of the battle:—
“Cast not away therefore your confidence which hath great recompense of reward.” “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love which ye … have ministered to the saints, and do minister.”—Heb. 10:35; 6:10.
Our last conversation before he became unconscious was respecting our blessed hope of eternal life through Christ, our dear Redeemer, and the promised future glory in which the Apostle intimates there will be different degrees of brilliancy, as “one star differeth from another star in glory.” (1 Cor. 15:41.) Humble minded, unostentatious and neither vain nor boastful, he declared that he did not expect a great or prominent position in the Lord’s Kingdom, but that he had full confidence nevertheless—not in his own perfection but in the Lord’s perfection and sacrifice and love and grace,—and was confident therefore that a place was reserved for him, and he was satisfied to have the matter thus.
It is not for us to say what shall be his blessing and reward: the gracious Judge will esteem us none the less if our confidence is in him, rather than boastfully in ourselves; but we can say of father a few things without boasting of him or for him. He was a lover of
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righteousness. He walked not after the flesh but after the spirit. He was a true yoke fellow and helper in the Lord’s cause. He fought a good fight—striving to conquer self-will and inherited sin and to resist the world and the devil. He kept the faith—did not deny it,—confessing it in word and deed to the very last, leaning on and trusting in the dear Redeemer. He has finished his course, and the righteous Judge, in whose grace he trusted, will grant him a goodly portion in the Father’s house of many mansions.
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THOU SHALT GUIDE ME WITH THY COUNSEL
“And Afterward Receive Me To Glory.”—Psa. 73:24.
HOW WONDERFUL is the thought that the Almighty God offers to guide his people through the difficulties of the present life by his divine counsel. One of life’s most important lessons is our own insufficiency, our own lack of wisdom. In childhood days we naturally sought parental counsel. In after years even, while recognizing perhaps the fallibility and imperfection of all human counsel, we nevertheless have found such counsel helpful—perhaps at times absolutely necessary to our welfare: nevertheless, under the realization that to some extent selfishness is a trait in all humanity, we have found it necessary to be on guard on this point also; lest the counsel which we received should be not only fallible but possibly biased by the interests or preferences of the counselor.
But when, after learning of the grace of God and his provision in Christ Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins and the reconciliation of ourselves to him, we not only accepted the forgiveness, but turning over a new leaf, sought to walk in life according to the rules of justice, conscientiously, we found that more than ever we needed counsel—good counsel, unselfish counsel. We found that the course we had adopted is quite contrary to the spirit of the world; and hence that the number who would be able and willing to counsel us along these lines is comparatively small. Then it was that we first learned to go to the Lord’s Word for counsel: and as we studied it we found in it more and more of a heavenly wisdom, profitable not only respecting the life to come, but also respecting the things of the present life.
After we had learned more of our own weakness and imperfection and more of the wisdom and grace of God, and after we had heard him inviting us, “calling” us to a full consecration of ourselves to him, and thus to a jointheirship with our Lord Jesus in the coming Kingdom, and after we had found the narrowness of the way to the divine nature and glory, we came more than ever to appreciate the necessity for a Counselor, and a very wise one. We found that even the best of earthly counsel is of value only as it has been directed by the divine counsel: and hence we learned that in every condition in life, in every perplexity, we should listen to the Voice Celestial. When we arrived at this stage of experience the words of our text brought us great comfort and joy, prophetically assuring us of the very thing which we had desired, namely, guidance by divine counsel. Moreover, there is in it the additional assurance that this counsel shall be sufficient for us, so that ultimately, by giving heed thereto, we shall reach the everlasting prize at the end of the racecourse.
It is not surprising that, misinterpreting the divine Word and hence the divine plan for human salvation, many should fancy that they are being guided by God’s counsel when really they are merely following the imaginings of their own minds. How many have been even led to absurdities by following what they imagined were impressions of the holy spirit. We know of no more fruitful source of error than this: no channel which the Adversary more frequently uses to delude and mystify those who consecrate themselves to the Lord; some of them finally becoming bound with their own erroneous views as with a chain.
It is usually after having stumbled through severe experiences of disappointment by following their own imaginings, thinking that they are led by the holy spirit, that God’s people ultimately, if honest with themselves, find the falsity of this method and look further and lay hold upon God’s counsel provided for us in his Word—the Bible.
The Adversary seeks to keep us from it and therefore misrepresents it as self-contradictory, contradicted by assurances of Scientists so-called, etc., etc. But the child of God not satisfied with self-deception, but really in earnest in the matter, learning his need of a counselor, and seeking grace to help at the throne of grace, will be providentially led of the Lord to his Word. He may even then be turned aside by some of the Adversary’s devices, but if he be truly begotten of the truth, the heavenly Father will doubtless correct him with chastisements and disappointments, and providentially bring him again in contact with his Word, at a time when his heart will be more mellow, and when he will more than ever feel his need of divine counsel.
We are not claiming that divine power is limited, so that no other channel than the Scriptures could be
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used in communicating between God and his people. It would be far from our thought to limit the Almighty; but it is quite our desire to ascertain if he has in any degree limited himself as respects the channels which he would use in counselling his people. We believe in divine providences, but believe that they are means for the bringing of God’s people into a condition where they can be taught of God from his Word; and that providences do not supplant God’s written Word. We know of nothing whatever in the Scriptures to indicate that God is pleased to reveal his will to his people, or to counsel them, by impressing thoughts upon their attention. Perhaps we ought to make an exception of the apostles, for possibly the Lord may so have dealt with them, inasmuch as they were used in the writing of the divine counsel for our instruction—the Scriptures.
But there is no intimation that God’s people of the Church in general are to have any plenary inspiration, after the manner of the prophets and the apostles. Quite to the contrary, the Church is continually urged to search the Scriptures, that they may know the will, the counsel, of God, and the Apostle declares that the written Word is sufficient “that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished.” (2 Tim. 3:16,17.) “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men but in the power of God”—the Word of God which liveth and abideth forever. It is in harmony with this that our Lord prayed to the Father for the Church, saying, “Sanctify them through thy truth; thy Word is truth.” (John 17:17.) It is for the same reason that the Bereans are commended, “in that they … searched the Scriptures daily.” (Acts 17:11.) It is for the same reason that the strongest and most faithful Christians in every period of the world’s history have been those who loved and reverenced the Bible, and who went to it as the Word of God when
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they desired counsel from the Most High. This is the oracle of God, and as the prophet Isaiah declares, “If they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” The prophet David says of some that “sit in darkness” that “it is because they rebelled against the words of God, and condemned the counsel of the Most High: therefore he brought down their heart with labor; they fell down, and there was none to help. Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses.”—Psa. 107:11-13. Compare Prov. 1:25,30.
Some reject the Word of the Lord in toto: others accept it nominally, but really never accept its counsels in the sense of putting them into practice in their daily lives. These latter are as truly rejectors as the former, altho they include the vast majority of nominal Christians. The Apostle calls attention to the difference between the hearer of the Word and the doer of the Word: also in the first Psalm the Lord points out to us the blessedness of those who walk according to the divine law or counsel, and not according to the counsel of the ungodly, saying, “He shall be like a tree planted by the river of water that bringeth forth fruit in its season. His leaf therefore shall not wither; and the thing which he doeth shall prosper.” This class has one great, chief object in life: it is to serve the Lord acceptably, and thus to cultivate the character which he enjoined, and thus to be fitted and prepared for the glories and blessing promised to such in the life to come. As the Apostle Paul declared, so say all of these: “This one thing I do”—and such shall prosper in that one thing which they are doing; such will win the great prize set before us in the gospel.
Even in earthly matters, how great wisdom do we find in the Lord’s counsel, the Lord’s Word. How often his people have ascertained years afterward, that it would have been wise for them, even from a selfish standpoint, to have sought first the counsel of the Lord in reference to the smallest affairs of life. For instance, how many have learned the wisdom of the Lord’s counsel which says, “Be thou no surety for another.” How many people have made shipwreck, financially, by the neglect of this admonition from the great Counselor. Nothing in this implies selfishness however, for the counsel of the Lord is that his people should be of a generous disposition. He counsels, “Do good, and lend, hoping for nothing [for no corresponding favors] again.” (Luke 6:35.) We may do good and lend according to our opportunities and abilities, but are not to obligate ourselves beyond what we would be willing to give or to lend outright.
How many would have found it of great advantage to them in life to have followed the Lord’s counsel which says, “Owe no man anything but love.” How often in the neglect of this divine counsel, God’s people as well as the worldly have suffered for years in endeavoring to pay debts which should never have been contracted. On the other hand, the Lord counsels us that we should “lay by in store” that we may have to give to charities. (1 Cor. 16:2; Eph. 4:28.) Economy and frugality, and provision for the necessities of our own household, and generosity toward others needing assistance, spiritual or temporal, are the good counsels of the Lord.
How many have suffered themselves and brought suffering upon others through neglect of the Lord’s counsel which says, “A soft answer turneth away wrath; but grievous words stir up anger.” Who cannot see that the whole world would be blessed by obedience to this counsel and that a very large proportion of the domestic infelicity of the whole world arises from a
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total or partial neglect of the course here pointed out by the divine Counsellor.
How many have failed to properly apply the divine counsel which assures us that, if rightly exercised thereby, tribulation worketh a hope which will not be put to shame, because of the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by such experiences. If all the Lord’s people would give attention to this, what a willingness to endure tribulation for the truth’s sake would take the place of fear; and what growth in grace would speedily be manifested.
The Lord’s counsel speaks to us again, instructing us as to the attitude of heart necessary if we would receive and be profited by his counsels. He says, “The meek will he guide in judgment, the meek will he teach his way.” Ah, yes! But how often pride, and haughtiness of language and demeanor, mark those who would be teachers of God’s people. But such marks to those who are looking to the Lord for counsel, should be indications that such teachers are not meek, are therefore not taught of God, nor in an attitude to receive his instruction; and that consequently they would be very unsafe helpers and guides respecting the heavenly counsel.
The heavenly Counselor instructs us, saying, “Forget not the assembling of yourselves together—and so much the more as ye see the day drawing on.” The meek who receive the counsel will seek so far as they are able to make use of all the means of grace which the Lord provides, for all possible fellowship of spirit with those who have the mind of Christ they will enjoy and seek to use. Those who do otherwise are rejecting the counsel of the Lord against themselves—to their own detriment and injury. Wherever the spirit of the Lord is in any heart, it will surely seek fellowship in others of like spirit. Hence, if our own hearts are in good condition, we will proportionately desire fellowship with the Lord, expressing ourselves in prayer and hearing the testimony of the Lord through his Word in reply; and similarly we will enjoy mingling with the Lord’s people. “He who loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen.” Any lack of fellowship with all who love the Lord and are consecrated to him should be considered by us as a sure sign of a spiritual decline, and should be correspondingly opposed with all our energy, until our hearts come back to that condition in which we have (as an assurance that we have passed from death unto life) the fact that we love the brethren.—1 John 3:14.
Our heavenly Father counsels us again in the words, “My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” How often would this good counsel of the Lord, if remembered, bring a blessing and a relief from the attacks of the Adversary who fain would make us believe that our unavoidable weaknesses and imperfections are proofs that we are not the Lord’s. With this counsel before us, what a strength we should have in combating the besetments of the world, the flesh and the devil. How it should lead us in the moment of temptation to lift up our hearts in prayer to the Lord for “grace to help in time of need.” The Lord wishes us to learn the lesson of our own weakness and imperfection and to learn to go to him for strength and succor—not before we need it, but “in time of need,” in every time of trouble.
What a blessing comes to us with a true appreciation of the Lord’s counsel, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” The combination of godliness and contentment is necessary to our peace and spiritual prosperity. However much godliness the discontented may have or seek to have, they cannot have true happiness. However contented any may be in sin or ungodliness, he is certainly losing a great deal in not having godliness—not only as respects the present life, but also that which is to come. Godliness with contentment does not mean indifference to our condition and welfare, either spiritual or temporal: the child of God is to be ambitious, especially in spiritual things, and in the use of every earthly talent to the Master’s praise: but while putting forth every energy and not slothful in the Lord’s business, nor in any other business in which he may engage with the Lord’s approval, but fervent in his spirit, serving the Lord, he may be content with such blessings upon his efforts as the Lord is pleased to grant, so that while still pursuing and still achieving he may continually be thankful and restful at heart, singing,—
“Content, whatever lot I see,
Since ’tis my God that leadeth me.”
No counsel of the Lord could be much more important than this at the present juncture; for we are in a time when more and more the whole world of mankind is growing discontented as well as losing Godlikeness. God’s people have therefore all the more need to cultivate these qualities; not only for their own sakes, but also as helpers, counselors and exemplars for the world.
How many of God’s consecrated people, through neglect to appropriate it to themselves, have lost the great comfort and peace which should go with the promise of our Counselor, “All things work together for good, to them that love God; to the called ones according to his purpose.” The well-instructed soul has learned that the good here referred to is not always, nor very often, earthly good,—temporal advantage: they that love God and are called according to his purpose, and have been giving attentive heed to his counsel,
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know that the “all things” include chiefly the trials and disappointments and perplexities and difficulties and temptations of the narrow way, in which they have consecrated themselves to walk; and that the “good” which will be worked out, will be in the chiseled and polished characters, likenesses to the character of Christ, which through faithfulness unto the end will be perfected in the divine honor and glory and immortality promised by the Lord to his faithful.
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What good counsel comes to us in the words, applicable to all who desire to please and serve the Lord, “I will set a guard upon my lips, that I sin not with my mouth.” How many heart-aches and heart burnings would be saved by a careful compliance with this good counsel. And a great blessing comes from every attempt to follow it; because, the lips merely give expression to that which is in the heart. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” Whoever, therefore, starts to guard his lips will find if he be a child of God, if he have a new heart, that the controlling of the lips will necessarily mean a correction of the heart in righteousness. He who would guard his lips will soon find that the easiest as well as the best way to do it is to get his heart filled with love and good wishes—to the Lord’s people and to all others; then the good thoughts and good sentiments within will leave no room for bitter expressions, slanders, malice, expressions of hatred or strife, which gender roots of bitterness and defile many.
Another counsel of the Lord which seems to be overlooked of late is, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for some thereby have entertained angels unawares.” In olden times the spirit beings on numerous occasions presented themselves in human form to deliver messages to mankind, but the Lord’s general method during this Gospel age seems to be to use his people in the flesh as his messengers. Yet, it is nevertheless still true, that all who have the Lord’s spirit should be hospitably inclined; especially toward any whom they may have reason to believe are fellow pilgrims in the path of life and fellow servants of the great King. And all who are ever thus entertained as the Lord’s servants, and because they are his, should be extremely careful that as ambassadors for God their influence, wherever they may go, may be an influence for good, a blessing upon their fellow servants, an influence that will glorify our Lord.
We might take up hundreds of the testimonies of our great Counselor and find them full of wisdom and blessing to us; yet the blessing would be not merely in the knowing of his counsel, but in proportion as we should obey the counsel, and thus do the will of our Father who is in heaven. We will not go further with this part of the subject, except to call to memory that the point of the Lord’s counsel most prominently set forth is, as the Apostle declares, summed up in the word, Love—to God and to our fellows. All the meekness that he instructs us to have, all the patience, together with all the experiences in life which he permits, are designed merely to cultivate, and to bring to a large development in us, the spirit of Love which, as our Counselor declares, is “the bond of perfectness;” because Love represents the only condition of the heart which could be entirely acceptable to God.
While the outward affairs of life are to be regulated and harmonized with the Lord’s character and will, as expressed to us in his Word, yet the object sought is to have these good qualities proceed from an inward source, a regenerated heart; a heart from which Selfishness has been dethroned, and in which Love has been enthroned as the moving impulse of life. Love to God will regulate all of our obedience to him, so that it will not be merely outward and formal ceremonies, but worship in spirit and in truth. Love to fellow-men—especially to the household of faith—will guide us in our dealings with them; for love thinks no evil, love slanders not, love backbites not, love bears no false witness, love seeks not her own interests merely, but also the welfare of others, is not proud, but humble, meek, gentle, easy to be entreated, long-suffering and patient.
Let us remember, however, that this condition of perfect love is not to be attained in a moment, but is to be the result of the experiences of the present life, in obedience to the divine counsel. However, the degree of success and rapidity in cultivating this spirit depends very largely upon our zeal, and the heed which we give to the great Counselor. Those who have given themselves wholly to the Lord and who have been accepted of him, have doubtless even from the beginning of their new life in Christ known considerable of this devotional love for God and for his people, which should increase daily. But the devotional flame which at the beginning of the Christian’s experience is fearful and merely seeks the Lord for safety, may by and by reach such a development that it cries out to God, “Oh Lord, I delight to do thy will. Gladly will I toil and suffer, or bear thy reproaches, and serve thy people; if thus I may know that I am pleasing and acceptable to thee!” This is the right spirit, and this spirit should continue all the way down to the close of the battle. But such will find testings and trials by the way, to prove how deep and how sincere is their spirit of love: and where it is genuine, where the good seed of the divine truth has fallen into an honest heart, it will grow, it will thrive upon trials, disappointments; and against every opposition it will bring forth in life a fruitage of good works, of service
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for the Lord and for his people,—which may be large or small according to the opportunities enjoyed by all the “overcomers.”
“AND AFTERWARD RECEIVE ME TO GLORY”
It will be noticed that this prophetic promise is not, “Thou shalt guide me by thy counsel” and if I will render obedience to the counsel, I will afterward be received to glory. On the contrary, the statement is made, not to nominal Christians, nor even to all who make a consecration to the Lord; it refers merely to those who will ultimately be overcomers and constitute the body of Christ, the glorified Church, the bride. The promise in other words is to the entire Christ, Head and body. Each member of the Christ will be guided by the divine counsel and as a result will be received to glory. All who hear the counsel of the Lord and are guided by it in this present time, will be ultimately accepted as members of the body of Christ, and as such will be received to the divine glory.
The Counselor is wise, infallible, unerring; he knows the end from the beginning, he knows exactly what will please himself; he knows therefore how to direct us in his way. His Word of counsel “is sufficient.” His spirit is the spirit of holiness, the spirit of love, the spirit of the truth; and wherever this spirit dwells in the hearts of his people it must be through a conformity to his Word of counsel, his guidance. For all who thus put themselves completely under the Lord’s supervision, and who resign their wills entirely to his will, there can be no question as to the result. Assuredly, such will afterward be received into glory.
Our Counselor through his Word tells us that there is an earthly or terrestrial glory, and that there is a heavenly or celestial. (1 Cor. 15:40,41.) Hence his counsel is appropriate not only to the class which is now running for the prize of the heavenly glory—seeking to make their calling and election sure through faithfulness unto sacrifice—but the same counsel will be appropriate to the world in the coming age. It will be just as necessary for the world to hear the Voice of the great Counselor as for us. They, too, will need to learn the various lessons which the elect learn in the present life.
Those who will hear the Voice of the Counselor then, in the Millennium, will hear it through the glorified High Priest; and those who will render obedience to that counsel will be received to the earthly glory while those who will not hear his Voice will be cut off in the second death. (Acts 3:23.) The earthly glory was represented in the first man, Adam, and such as attain to it will attain to a condition of glory similar to that which he enjoyed before he sinned. The heavenly glory is represented in our Lord Jesus since his resurrection, highly exalted, the express image of the Father’s person, and all the faithful of this Gospel age (tested by the severe trials of the present time) shall be made like unto their Lord and share his glory; as it is written,—”We shall be like him and see him as he is”—”partakers of the divine nature.”
If there are difficulties in the race-course set before us in the Gospel age, there are advantages also. If we are required to walk by faith and not by sight, nevertheless the Lord’s grace is sufficient for us, and the results promised are “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” If the trial is sharper and the conflict more intense, it has also the advantage of being shorter than that coming upon the world in the Millennial age; so we may say with the Apostle, these “light afflictions which are but for a moment,” work out for us a better hope.
Let us, dearly beloved, take yet more earnest heed to the Word which has been spoken, remembering the Master’s expression, He that heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them, I will liken him to a man who builded his house upon a rock and the rain descended and the floods came and the storm beat upon that house and it fell not; for it was founded upon a rock—a sure foundation.
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“TEMPTED IN ALL POINTS LIKE AS WE ARE”
—JAN. 9.—MATT. 4:1-11.—
“For in that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.”—Heb. 2:18.
IMMEDIATELY after his consecration to death, in harmony with the Father’s plan, and after he had symbolized that consecration by baptism in Jordan, our Lord, instead of beginning at once his ministry, turned aside into the wilderness. The record is that he was led of the spirit to do this, and that it involved very trying temptations. We may readily surmise the reason why our Master took this course. He knew that he had come into the world to fulfil a great mission, to perform the Father’s will, whatever that might be: he knew that it involved the rescue of mankind from sin and death: and, since it was the Father’s will, he had left the glory which he had with the Father from before the world’s creation, and had willingly come to a lower nature, human nature, in order to carry out to the full the divine plan. But the divine plan could not be carried out by him as the babe of Bethlehem, nor as the boy of Nazareth, nor until he had fully reached manhood’s estate at thirty years of age. We saw in our last lesson that he waited not a
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moment, but started to come to John for baptism before he was quite thirty, in order that at the very earliest possible moment he might make his full consecration to the Father’s will and begin the Father’s business—the work he had given him to do. We have seen, also, that the holy spirit without measure was granted to our Lord as soon as he had finished his consecration and its symbol, as he came up out of the water. It was under the enlightening influence of this holy power that he had just received, and by means of which he was enabled to see and understand much more clearly than before the things of God—the divine plan and his connection therewith—that he sought the wilderness solitude for study, prayer and reflection. He took this course because he realized the importance of the work he was beginning, and desired to make no mistake respecting the same, and its proper method. He turned aside and, freeing himself from all uninspired earthly counsel, sought to know by the holy spirit given unto him the true import of those Scriptures with which he was already familiar, and concerning which he had disputed with the Doctors of the Law in the temple as early as his twelfth year. (Had there been other spirit-begotten ones then, our Lord no doubt would have communed with them; just as his followers are instructed to do.—Heb. 10:25; Jude 19-21.)
We can imagine our Lord during those forty days praying to the Father for counsel and guidance, and searching the Scriptures which he already had stored in his memory, to find the answer to his prayers written aforetime in the types of the Law and the writings of the prophets. The various features were called up, and the harmony between them sought;—the prophecies which refer to Messiah as the Lamb led to the slaughter, and the other prophecies which describe the glorious majesty and power of Immanuel as King of kings. He saw also that the typical lambs and bullocks sacrificed must have an antitype, because their continued repetition showed that they never really cancelled sin: and furthermore that in some way there was an identity between the Priest who offered the sacrifice and the sacrifice itself; and that the same Priest was typified in Melchisedec as no longer a sacrificer, but enthroned in power. The putting together of these different features of the divine Word, and weaving out of them a knowledge of the divine plan, and of his own relation thereto, was probably a large and important part of our Lord’s occupation during those forty days in the wilderness. The more he studied the picture, the more he saw that it represented ignominy, shame and death as preceding the glory of his Kingdom. Naturally the influence of these reflections would weigh heavily upon him, rather depressing him in spirit,—particularly since the continuous fast necessarily weakened him mentally as well as physically.
Whether or not the tempter was with the Lord, testing him throughout the forty days, we do not know; but we know that the severity of his trial came at its close;—when he was at his weakest, physically, and when consequently the prophetic study, which indicated to him his path of suffering, exercised upon him its most depressing influence.
The first of the recorded temptations was a very subtle one. (1) It implied a sympathy on the part of the tempter, a desire for the Lord’s welfare. (2) It implied a doubt on the part of Satan respecting our Lord’s identity, and a desire for proof, with the indirect intimation that, if such a proof were given, Satan himself would believe and be ready to fall into line as a servant of righteousness. (3) Knowing that he was the Son of God and that he had been anointed with the holy spirit, this demand of the tempter would seem to be a challenge to prove himself to be the Son of God, and to prove that he had received the holy spirit in full power, and that, if he did not do so, his claim might be considered fraudulent. (4) It was an appeal to one of the strongest cravings known to human nature; one which we, who have never fasted much, can with difficulty conceive. The gnawings of hunger are said to be terrible, and it has become a proverb that hunger or “necessity knows no law.” Shipwrecked sailors have been exonerated for turning cannibals under the stress of hunger when they have been without food much less than forty days. As foretold by the prophet, and recorded by the historian, mothers ate their own children during the siege of Jerusalem, under the stress of hunger. All these circumstances considered together prove that this was a most severe temptation upon our Lord, perhaps as severe as any.
But the question arises, Wherein was the sin? Why should not our Lord use his power for the preservation of his own life?
We must assuredly look for the answer to these questions, because if obedience to Satan’s proposition had not been wrong, a serious wrong, there could have been no temptation in the matter. The fact that it was a temptation proves that for our Lord to have created bread out of the stones would have been a sin. It proves also that he had the power thus to transform the stones into bread, otherwise there would have been no temptation. The wrong, as we understand it, would have consisted in the misuse of the holy spirit or holy power so recently conferred upon him. This spirit was poured upon him because of his consecration, his self-sacrifice to do the Father’s will in the interest of others and to lay down his life in this service. Consequently, to have used that power in harmony with any other purpose than that for which it was given would have been a misuse of it. This avoidance of the use of his
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special powers for or upon himself may be noticed in connection with our Lord’s entire ministry. All of his miracles were in the interests of others; none of them for selfish purposes. For instance, when at Cana the water was turned into wine, while our Lord may have partaken of the wine with the rest, it was made for their use and to manifest forth his glory, and was not for himself. The same was true when the five thousand were fed in the wilderness, and again when the four thousand were miraculously fed. But to have turned the stones into bread would not have fed others either physically or mentally. Indeed, so far from using his miraculous powers selfishly, we find that many of our Lord’s miracles, especially those of healing, were done at his own personal expense—at the expense of the loss of vitality; as it is written, “Virtue [vitality] went out of him and healed them all.”
There is a lesson in this for the Church, which is the body of Christ; for we are tempted like as he was. It is well to note that it is not all mankind that is tempted as he was tempted, but only his “brethren,” the members of his body. These are tempted like as he was, and for the same reasons. A failure to realize this fact has led many to inquiry as to how our Lord was tempted in all points as every father and mother is tempted, and as every husband and wife is tempted and tried, as drunkards are tempted, etc. But all these fail to get the thought. Our Lord was not so tempted, but merely tempted on the same lines of testing and trial that apply to his consecrated Church.
Applying this lesson to the Church, the body of Christ, we find it applicable. We, having been justified by the grace of God through faith in the precious blood, are reckoned as perfect; in order that we may present our justified selves as living sacrifices to God, under the conditions of the New Covenant. With our Master this signified a consecration or baptism into death: so with us, it signifies a giving up of human rights, that we may obtain the more excellent inheritance, of which the holy spirit now given us is a foretaste. But the tempter comes to us to suggest such a use of our new nature, its talents, privileges and opportunities as would make it the servant of our earthly nature and its appetites. This temptation should be resisted as from the evil one. To our understanding this temptation may come in various ways; for instance, (1) our privilege of communion with the Lord might be perverted into merely an opportunity for begging for temporal blessings, wealth, or ease, or health. On the contrary we are to realize that our earthly interests have all been consecrated to the Lord, and we are to seek chiefly the interests of the heavenly Kingdom—to spend and be spent in its service, according to our covenant; and to commit all earthly interests unto him who careth for us, and who has promised that they
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shall work together for good to those who love him, and are called according to his purpose.
(2) Another form of this temptation might be to use heavenly gifts to earthly advantage; as for instance, a minister, finding the truth unpopular, might be tempted to sacrifice it in the interest of his daily bread, or comforts, or luxuries or fame. The same temptation is common to all; for all the members of the body of Christ are members of the “royal priesthood” whose commission is to minister to truth, “holding forth the Word of life.” And suggestions will naturally come to all, to the effect that boldness and fearlessness in the use of their spiritual talents would soon or later lead to temporal losses and crosses; and thus to these also the Tempter suggests that the truth be used only in such a manner as will bring the largest proportion of the loaves and fishes. We all, therefore, should remember well our Master’s answer to the Tempter along this line: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” The word from the mouth of God is that if we are faithful in laying down our lives now we shall have eternal life and jointheirship in our Master’s Kingdom. His word is that “whosoever seeketh to save his [earthly] life [at the expense of his covenant] shall lose it, and whosoever shall lose his [earthly] life [laying down his life in harmony with his covenant of consecration, faithfully, unto death] shall find it [eternal life].”
The second temptation was a challenge to our Lord to prove his relationship to God, and the divine providence over him, by leaping from the highest point of the temple into the valley below. We need not suppose that our Lord was taken physically to the top of the temple, but that he was taken mentally there by the suggestion which, if amplified, no doubt would be somewhat as follows: If you are the Son of God, it is proper that you should give some test or proof, and I suggest that it be a leap from the top of the temple into yonder valley: which would be proof not only to me but to the most zealous of the Jews, who would then know of a surety of your divine power and commission, by seeing you arise unhurt after the fall. Satan even sought to back up this temptation by a text of Scripture, quoting from Psa. 91:11,12. It was a misapplication of Scripture, however, for the prophecy relates to the symbolical feet of Christ—the last members of the body of Christ in the end of the Gospel age—pointing out how these will be preserved and helped in the time of trouble and stumbling with which this age will close.
Our Lord’s answer shows that he possessed the “spirit of a sound mind.” He answered the Tempter
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that it would be wrong, sin on his part, thus to tempt the Almighty, to tempt Providence, no matter how good the objective result.
There is a lesson here also for the members of the body of Christ, the royal priesthood. In seeking to serve the Lord we are not to tempt Providence by expecting miracles where they are unnecessary. As it would have been sin for our Master to have leaped from the roof of the temple, so the temptation may come to us to fearlessly put ourselves into positions of difficulty and danger (moral or financial, physical or spiritual) and expect God to work a miracle in our deliverance. For instance, we have known Christian people who would go into debt without any assurance of being able to pay, and who explained the matter by saying that they had faith in the Lord that he would provide the money by and by, and not suffer them to be put to shame, as frauds, and thus to put him to shame. These people were jumping off the pinnacle of the temple financially and morally without any authority in the Word of God for so doing. Such are likely soon or later to meet with disaster. Their duty would be rather to remember that obedience is better than sacrifice, and that obedience demands that they “owe no man anything.” Another temptation of this same character comes to some people in connection with the Lord’s work: urging them to expect divine interposition and miracle to put the truth into their mouths and hearts while they fail to obey the divine instruction to “Search the Scriptures” that they may be “thoroughly furnished” unto every good word and work. Our Lord’s reply to Satan is one that should be treasured by all of his followers for use under all such temptations; namely, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”
Our Lord’s final temptation in the wilderness was the display to him of the kingdoms of the world, their power and magnificence, and the proposition that all of these should be turned over to him if he would but acknowledge Satan and become a cooperator with him. We do not suppose that the high mountain to which he was taken was a literal mountain, but suppose that our Lord was all the while still in the wilderness of Judea, and that mentally he was taken into Satan’s mountain and given a view of the majesty of the earthly dominion and the subserviency of all the kingdoms of the world to Satan the “prince of this world, who now worketh in the hearts of the children of disobedience.” Here, as elsewhere, “mountain” stands for kingdom, and the high mountain, from which earth’s kingdoms were viewed, was the Kingdom of Satan, his rule and authority over mankind. Satan in the first temptation had found our Lord fully obedient to his consecration and unwilling to use his heavenly powers selfishly. In the second, he had found him unwilling to exercise anything but a proper, rational trust in God, in harmony with the Lord’s Word.
Now he tried a new plan, wholly different: He would no longer dispute with Jesus that he was the Son of God, he would no longer ask him to prove that proposition; but taking that for granted, and taking for granted his divine title to the dominion of the world, he now proposed a compromise. He said in effect, You are anointed of God to be the King of Earth; yet you yourself must see what difficulties must lie in your way. You see how the whole world is under my sway, and even according to your own expectations (as you have been reasoning the matter over from the Scriptures) the divine plan for blessing mankind, which you have undertaken to carry out, would be at very best a slow, tedious plan, full of difficulties if indeed at all practicable. And as for yourself, you perceive that the path marked out for you in Jehovah’s arrangement, by which he proposes that you shall become the Lord and King of the earth, is a path of severe trials, difficulties and dangers, amidst which, if you make but one misstep, you will forfeit all. Now, therefore, my suggestion is this: I am not so bad, not so evilly disposed, as I am reputed to be. True, I did instigate sin, but not because I preferred to see mankind in sin, but because I wished to have an empire of my own, and to have mankind as my subjects. Really, I should be glad to have you undertake the work of rescuing mankind from its degradation and establishing just such a kingdom as you propose to establish—a reign of righteousness, justice, peace and love; and I would be willing to cooperate. Now, therefore, my suggestion is that, instead of combatting me and incurring my opposition and enmity, you recognize me in connection with this world of mankind, and undertake the work of bringing mankind to righteousness under my patronage, and I, on the other part, will promptly and speedily, and without contention or strife, deliver to you, to be blessed, all the families of the earth, according to the desire of your heart. Consider well now, how much better is this plan which I suggest than the one which you have been entertaining as outlined in the Scriptures. Furthermore, this would involve my own conversion to righteousness, which surely would not be amiss either in your sight or in the sight of Jehovah. You need have no hesitation about adopting this my plan, because you do not find it in the Scriptures; for of course God never anticipated that I would make such an offer, a free delivery up of the world to you and to a reign of righteousness.
Here was the strongest temptation of all. Our Lord knew that the Father’s will was to reconcile the world unto himself; he knew that it was for this purpose
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that he had come into the world; he foresaw that according to the divine arrangement (as outlined in the Scriptures, in type and in prophecy), a long, tedious battle with evil was involved; and now, here, suddenly, a door of escape from his anticipated troubles was opened almost seemingly providentially at the beginning of his ministry: this path led upward at once to the glory and power and dominion of earth, and speedily to the blessing of all mankind; whereas the divine plan led first down into the valley of the shadow of death, humiliation, ignominy, suffering, trials and, by and by, a long way off, promised glory to follow.
Which path should he choose? There were many strong reasons pointing to the proposition of Satan, and the depression of spirit which had come over him through the study of the Scriptures, and finding the narrowness and difficulty of the path of life which the Father had marked out, combined with the physical weakness resulting from his forty days fast, placed our dear Master at a great disadvantage, and served as a test of the severest kind to his love, faith, and loyalty toward God. But he came off victorious, and promptly so; answering, “Get thee hence, Satan [do not try to tempt me to become your follower and servant], for it is written, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve [I will follow the divine program at any cost].”
A temptation similar to this comes to the members of the body of Christ through the same Adversary and his various agencies. It is a temptation to adopt some
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other plan than the Divine plan for doing good, blessing mankind and establishing a Kingdom of righteousness in the earth. How many honest Christians, finding the Lord’s way very narrow and yielding good results very slowly, have undertaken to improve upon the divine method by schemes and arrangements devised by themselves or by others. For instance, altho Christian people in general admit that sectarian divisions in the Church are entirely contrary to the divine instructions, they nevertheless lend their influence to these systems, declaring that they yield better results than the Scriptural plan, and supposing that, however good the Lord’s plan might have been at first, they have found a better one for the present. They find in the Scriptures a very simple outline of faith,—”One Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and Father of all:” but not satisfied with this, every denomination makes for itself certain doctrinal tests, and holds that it has a right so to do; because times have changed, and the divine plan in its simplicity would not be appropriate now.
It was not long after the apostles fell asleep in death that the Adversary succeeded in deluding the Church to try his easier way of reaching the desired results;—blessing the world and establishing it in righteousness. When Satan succeeded in getting some of the principal ones in the Church to hearken to his schemes and to go into partnership with him for the control of the world and its blessing through a combination of religion and politics, the organization called itself the “Church of Rome,” “The Holy Catholic Church.” After corrupting her through priestcraft and superstition, and introducing into her system and worship the greatest of blasphemies, he had measurably succeeded in making the world believe that it was living under the dominion of the Kingdom of God, for which Christ had taught his people to pray,—”Thy Kingdom come.” Yet not all were deluded thus; a remnant still remained loyal to the Lord and his Word, and preferred persecution for righteousness’ sake rather than share the pleasures of sin and the glories of the false kingdom for a season.
When by and by under divine providence the torch of truth was caused to blaze forth in the hands of the Reformers, a new era was ushered in, and the Adversary immediately set about to oppose the truth and its servants who were denouncing him and his false Antichrist kingdom. He persecuted at first with sword and flame and rack and dungeon; but later he has taken new methods, and, persuading each band of reformers (each sect) that they have won a great victory, he has gotten them settled down self-satisfied in the belief that, while Papacy was corrupt, it was nevertheless the Kingdom of God; and that now both they and Papacy are unitedly God’s Kingdom blessing the world by the establishment of civilization;—by political reforms, temperance reforms, social reforms; and converting the heathen by sending war vessels, seizing their territory, appropriating their customs duties, and forcing upon them Christendom’s whiskey, tobacco and profanity in combination with monopolies and trusts.
Nor is this temptation confined to those who are identified with the grossest errors of sectarianism. Many who have a considerable knowledge of the present truth seem willing to bow the knee to wealth, to influence, to Satan’s various systems, hoping thereby to have better opportunities of serving the Lord and his truth, than they could find by following in the path which the Lord himself took, and directs his followers to take;—the “narrow way.” Let us each see to it most carefully that we worship and serve the Lord only, and that we follow only his directions. All other voices, except those which merely reecho the Shepherd’s voice lead more or less astray. All other paths are violations of our engagements with the Lord. In victories over such temptations we are overcoming the world: and in order to have such victories and to overcome the world absolute faith in the Lord is indispensable. We must realize that, however matters may appear on the surface, the Lord’s way, the narrow way, is the best way, and the only way, that leads to the prize of our high calling in his Kingdom.
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THE BEGINNING OF JESUS’ MINISTRY
—Jan. 16.—Matt. 4:17-25.—
“The people which sat in darkness saw a great Light.”
FOR a while after the temptation of the wilderness our Lord’s ministry was of a private character, until after John had finished his ministry and been cast into prison. This interim of time before our Lord began his public work is frequently estimated at from six months to a year. To have begun sooner might have aroused some rivalry between his followers and the followers of John; but even as it was, we are informed that Jesus baptized more disciples than John, tho Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples. The calling of Peter and Andrew mentioned in this lesson was not their first introduction to Jesus, but merely our Lord’s invitation to them to become special associates in the work of proclaiming the Kingdom. The account of their first introduction to Jesus is found in John 1:36-42. Our Lord evidently resided for some time at Nazareth with his mother and brethren,—until the time of John’s imprisonment and the consequent stoppage of his mission-work. It was then that our Lord with his mother and brethren removed as a family to Capernaum. (Compare Matt. 4:13; John 2:12.) “From that time Jesus began to preach, and say, Repent; for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
For centuries Israel had been looking for the Kingdom of Heaven—the Kingdom of God—expecting according to their covenant that the chief place in that Kingdom should be theirs, as the servants of God, the ministers of righteousness and truth; and that they should be used of the Almighty to rule and instruct all nations: in fulfilment of the promise made to Abraham, that in his seed all the families of the earth should be blessed. All true Israelites had this promise distinctly before their minds as their great hope, and indeed the only object of their national existence.—See Acts 26:6,7.
To these, therefore, the proclamation, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” meant,—God’s time has now come for the fulfilment of his promise to this nation, in its establishment as his representative kingdom to rule and to bless the world; but in order to be fit for this Kingdom every Israelite should prepare his heart, humble himself before God, repenting of sins and thereby reforming his life, seeking a readiness for the divine blessing and exaltation, in whatever form it might come. This message was the same which John delivered in his public ministry; the same also that was given to the twelve disciples, and afterwards to the seventy also, whom Jesus sent forth, clothed with a share of his power over diseases and unclean spirits, to announce him in all the cities which he later would visit.
Thus did God fulfil toward Israel both the letter and the spirit of his engagement; but while the people of Palestine were the children of Abraham, and professedly God’s covenant people, yet with the vast majority this was but an empty profession and an outward form; for their hopes respecting the great promise of which they were heirs were not the proper, laudable ambitions to be God’s servants and messengers in carrying his blessings to mankind, but a selfish, arrogant pride, which concluded that there must have been some special merit in their race, which led God to seek it, and on account of which God would be rather obligated to that nation, as the only people capable of carrying out his benevolent designs. Against this arrogance our Lord warned them frequently; and assured them that God could get along without them entirely, and was able to raise up for his purpose, instead of them, children of Abraham, who would have Abraham’s loyalty of spirit,—even if it were necessary to create these out of the stones. (Matt. 3:9; Luke 3:8.) As a matter of fact we know that after the “wheat” class had been separated from the “chaff” of that nation, and been gathered into the Gospel “garner,” the Lord has been seeking others from among the Gentiles during the past eighteen centuries, to complete the elect number of Israelites indeed, the true seed of Abraham, to constitute this promised Heavenly Kingdom, whose mission it shall be, as the divine representatives, to bless all the families of the earth—”in the world to come”—in the age to follow this Gospel age—in the Millennium.
And the same message, “Repent, etc.,” has come all the way down the centuries, notifying us that whoever would be of this holy Kingdom must reform his course of life and come into heart-harmony with the laws of this Kingdom: Otherwise they would not be in a condition to be made members of the “royal priesthood” which is to offer the great blessings which God has designed and promised to the world.
While the four fishermen mentioned in this lesson were already at heart disciples of our Lord Jesus, and recognized him as the Messiah, this was the first call to public ministry as his colaborers, and their promptness in obeying the call is worthy of notice as a mark
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of their earnestness and faith; for our Master declared, He that obeyeth my words he it is that loveth me, and he shall be loved of my Father. There is a good lesson here on promptness of obedience for all of the Lord’s people. It is worthy of note also that our Lord called to the special, active service of preaching the Gospel, men who were not “slothful in business:” they
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were not idlers, nor did they join the Lord’s company with the expectation of becoming idlers. Doubtless they had already heard our Lord’s dissertation to the effect that no man need come after him except prepared to take up a cross in the service. No doubt they knew already that our Lord was poor and without standing before the influential of that day. Nevertheless, they gladly joined his company upon his assurance that under his direction, altho their work would be no less arduous, they should be “fishers of men.”
For a considerable time our Lord’s ministries were confined to Galilee, except as occasionally he went up to Jerusalem on national holidays. His message is called the gospel—the good news: because Israelites, like the rest of the groaning creation, had been long waiting for the promised Golden Age, when all the bitterness of the curse would be removed, and when the blessings of the Lord would come down richly and bountifully upon the earth. It was indeed good news then as it is good news now to everyone that believeth. But then, as now, it was difficult to believe. Then the Scribes and Pharisees and Doctors of the Law rejected Jesus, repudiated his claims and jested about him and his followers, that they must be lunatics to think that any knowledge on this subject of the Kingdom of God could come through the carpenter and some fishermen associates, and not through the great and notable Chief Priests, Scribes, Pharisees and Doctors. Moreover, they ridiculed the fact that without wealth and social influence, and by the preaching of the Gospel of repentance, an army could ever be raised which could vanquish the Roman legions, and deliver Israel and conquer the world before her, so as to give her the chief position of authority as the Kingdom of God. Their hearts being in the wrong condition, the religious rulers were less prepared to grasp the truth then due than were the hearts of the humble, faithful, unlearned fishermen. Likewise to-day, the Doctors of Divinity and all the socially and religiously great of Christendom scout the idea of the establishment of the Kingdom by the power of God in the hands of Christ and his little flock of the royal priesthood; and declare on the other hand that they are the Lord’s Kingdom, and leave us to infer that notwithstanding all the pride and crime and ungodliness abounding in so-called Christendom, nevertheless, God’s will is “done on earth as it is done in heaven.” And, with their show of wealth and power and learning and dignity and influence they say to-day as the Scribes and Pharisees said of old—Have any of the great ones of church or state believed in this coming Kingdom of God which you preach, saying that the Kingdom of heaven is at hand, and the elect membership being gathered? The answer to the question now, as in the past, must be No; not many great, not many wise, not many rich, not many learned according to the course of this world have believed in the coming Kingdom and are looking for it, and are waiting and laboring to enter into it; but chiefly the poor of this world, rich in faith, whom God has ordained to be heirs of the Kingdom.—1 Cor. 1:26,27; Jas. 2:5.
The healing of sicknesses by our Lord and his followers at the first advent was a foreshadowing of the blessings which would more fully come when the Kingdom itself would be established; and the miracles served also to draw the attention of the people to the message proclaimed, and to spread abroad the fame of the Teacher, and, incidentally, his message respecting his Kingdom to come, and the repentance necessary to a share therein. This multitude was not merely a local gathering, but one from various quarters, some coming great distances, as people naturally will do in hope of relief from physical disease. Alas, how much more anxious people seem to be to get rid of diseases of the flesh than to be rid of the diseases of the soul—sins: yet of the two the latter is the much worse disease and the more difficult to cure, and in our Lord’s preaching these were given first place, as of greater importance, as expressed in the word “Repent;” the physical healing being merely an incidental matter, unworthy to be mentioned in the general proclamation.
We will not dispute as to whether or not the period of miracles is wholly in the past: we will even admit that since we are in the Dawn of the Millennial age a certain beginning of restitution work may be properly due to the world as a part of the divine plan. We urge, however, upon the Lord’s people, as a matter of far greater importance than any physical healing, the necessity of bringing their friends and coming themselves to the Great Physician for healing of soul-sickness,—for the opening of their eyes that they may see clearly the “goodness of God as it shines in the face of Jesus Christ our Lord;” for the opening of their ears that they may hear fully and clearly the great message of salvation and understand distinctly the terms and conditions of self-sacrifice upon which depends their attainment to the Kingdom glories as members of the “little flock” to whom it is the Father’s good pleasure to give the Kingdom. Let those who are lame through pride and self-will, and unable to follow in the “narrow way,” cast away these crutches, and, coming to the Lord in full submission and contrition and humility, let them learn to walk in his ways of meekness and gentleness, patience and suffering and brotherly-kindness, that he may exalt them in due time. These sicknesses, these infirmities, these diseases, with which the new nature contends, and the evil spirits of selfishness and pride, and the palsy of fear of man, which bringeth a snare, are diseases far more terrible than earthly sicknesses, and from these, we are sure, the Great Physician is both able and willing, yea anxious, to relieve us.
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DEAR SIR:—I received your valuable paper ZION’S WATCH TOWER this afternoon and I thank you very much. It made my heart glad. I love the glad tidings, though it is sometimes hard to apprehend it. In my 21 years of Christian experience I never heard of anything like it, until I saw the MILLENNIAL DAWN in our Sunday School library catalogue. Being hungry to learn about my Lord’s return I got it to read, and I have read it over and over again. It has greatly strengthened my faith in the Lord. I want to know more, so enclose one dollar for which please send me the three volumes of your book, and ZION’S WATCH TOWER for the next three months.
MRS. J. BENGSTON.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL: I have just returned from a little missionary tour. The Lord blessed me wonderfully, and I succeeded in making the truth plain to some very hungry individuals. Please send me some tracts—as many “Do You Know?” as you can spare, for it is the most wonderful tract that ever was printed. I distributed them everywhere I went.
You will see throughout eternity the good you have done by having the TOWER readers read Matt. 5:1-16, and 1 Cor. 13. They have borne me out in many difficulties, and pictured to full view so many of my shortcomings. Sister Neely wishes to be remembered to you and says she has been greatly helped by the Sunday morning reading, and has been able to overcome many things that overcame her in the past.
Your sister in Christ,
CAROLINA A. WAYMAN.
DEAR SIRS:—I desire to express my thanks for the fourth volume of the DAWN series. I believe these books contain a wonderful unfolding of God’s great plan of the ages. The last issue is a most remarkable volume, and in its gathering together of the views held by some of the most eminent men of our day, in all the walks of life, touching the great crisis ahead, is a most valuable addition to the library of the student of latter day truth. May we meet the obligations which so much light entails upon us, and be ready to hail with joy the ushering in of the Millennial day, when the mystical body of Christ will be made complete and share with him his throne. Again let me thank you for your kindness in sending me the book.
Yours in the Master,
R. E. STREETER.
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DEAR FRIEND:—Your fourth volume of MILLENNIAL DAWN came duly to hand. I have just read it through the second time. Many books are not worth reading at all; others will bear reading but once; and some can be read with profit two or three times. There are others again that are indispensable as text books. Of the latter class is volume four of M. DAWN. It is indeed a rich storehouse of information that I believe can be found nowhere else in modern literature. It gives us a birdseye view of the present condition of the nations of the world—moral, political and financial—and also spreads out before our eyes the hopeless condition of modern nominal Christendom.
Many do admit that there will be great changes in the near future, but they are all to be of a pacific character. Babylon is fully equipped with men and money to convert the world. Her missionaries will soon be in all lands; the present nations of the world will soon be Christianized; all that is needed for this purpose is men and money. Your neighbor the Rev. I. W. Sproull, D.D., writes: Money, money, money! Give me the money and I will evangelize the world in three years. Mr. Sproull forgets that he is at the head of a foreign mission in Syria which has been in existence since the year 1850 at an expense to his church of about $15,000 per annum. And what is the result to-day? Not a single native teacher; but expensive mission buildings with high stone walls built around them for protection. These buildings are simply boarding houses for native children whom their parents allow the mission to feed and clothe until they get able to work; that is all. And the missionaries themselves admit that they could not stay in Syria a single day were it not for the protection of American war ships cruising in the Mediterranean sea. Here then we have an expenditure of about $600,000 on one little spot in Asia Minor with no result as yet. How much money would Mr. Sproull need to evangelize the heathen world in three years? We will not wait to count. Such a computation would be utterly beyond our reach. Does our reverend doctor really believe that the establishment of Christ’s Kingdom on this earth is a matter of dollars and cents, or that it is dependent on the contributions wrung out of a deluded people? So he writes—”Hundreds and thousands of the heathen are descending into everlasting torment every day—and their blood will be required of all those who refuse or neglect to support foreign missions.”
JAS. N. DOWNEY.
[Many of the Lord’s people have been blessed in giving to missions, whatever the good to the heathen. An increase of light should not deprive us of the blessing of giving, but should guide us to the choice of the best ways and means, and redouble our zeal.—EDITOR.]
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:—Seven years ago I was on the eve of infidelity, and had given up all hope, when I by chance came in possession of the first volume of DAWN. Since then I have read and re-read each volume as it has come out, and the last one I have just completed. Some of them I have gone through three times.
Do you want to know what the truth has done for me? At the time I was led into this marvelous light
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I was one of the worst cases of bedridden paralytics in town. I had become addicted to the morphine habit, and used sixty grains of the drug in one week; but by the grace of almighty God I have overcome the habit and have not touched it for over four years. I have been able to walk without crutches now for over two years. I have vowed to God to labor in the vineyard to the best of my ability.
Yours in Christian love,
C. M. CARPENTER.