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VOL. X. ALLEGHENY, PA., JULY, 1889. NO. 9.
ZION'S WATCH TOWER and Herald of Christ's Presence
ROCK OF AGES
Other foundation can
no man lay
A RANSOM FOR ALL
"Watchman, What of the Night?" "The Morning Cometh, and a Night also!" Isaiah 21:11
TOWER PUBLISHING COMPANY.
No. 151 Robinson St., Allegheny, Pa.
C. T. RUSSELL, EDITOR.
TERMS OF SUBSCRIPTION.
DOMESTIC,--Fifty cents a year, in advance, by Draft, P.O. Money Order, or Registered letter.
FOREIGN,--Two shillings per year. Remit by Foreign Postal Money Order.
TO POOR SAINTS.
This paper will be sent free to the interested of the Lord's poor, who will send a card yearly requesting it. "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat--yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." And you who have it-- "Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labor for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently--and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness." --ISAIAH 55:1,2.
Entered as SECOND CLASS MAIL MATTER, at the P.O., Allegheny, Pa.
Our supply was quickly exhausted in answer to last month's notice--except VOL. II., cloth bound; of these we have a few left at 40 cents each, postage included.
OLD THEOLOGY POOR FUND.
It is suggested that, as the OLD THEOLOGY TRACTS are evidently destined to become quite a feature of the "harvest work," some arrangement should be made for supplying them free to the Lord's children who have the time and heart to give to this sort of preaching, but who could not afford to pay for the one-thousandth part of what they could wisely circulate.
Nor would it be right to absorb the general fund, called "Tract Fund," in this work, for already it finds more to do than it can do, in the other branches of the work. (The Tract Fund will do this, however, toward putting a little ammunition in the hands of those who would be sure to use it and that wisely: It will pay the subscription for one year on five tracts quarterly to any WATCH TOWER subscriber too poor to purchase them, who will send in the request.) Besides, some deeply interested in the OLD THEOLOGY "hail" desire such a special fund so that they may specially help and forward that part of the work.
A start has already been made in this direction. One sister contributes $68 for 3000 tracts, quarterly, this year (12,000 tracts in all), to be sent to Baptist ministers throughout the United States. We have thought best to fill this order by sending Tract No. I to all as a sample, so far as it will go, and accordingly the 12,000 are already send out. As there are about 22,000 Baptist ministers, this sister's wise stewardship of the Lord's funds entrusted to her care sends some "meat in due season" to more than one half of the Baptist preachers--some of them we trust will produce an abundant yield.
A brother of this city, himself so situated that he cannot engage in circulating them, as he would like to do, contributed $110 for 20,000 tracts, of any or all the numbers of the present year, for circulation in the cities of Pittsburgh and Allegheny: remarking that he knew of no other way of doing so much good with the same amount of money; that he could think of no better topic for the general reader than Tract No. I, and that even if he could prepare as good, only about one half as many, for the amount of money, could be procured in the ordinary way from printers; adding that, if permitted, he hoped from time to time to provide for others of our large cities, thus to aid representatively in preaching the truth to thousands who as yet know only very imperfectly--"The message of salvation
From God's own holy Word."
The work was taken hold of here with a will by some who appreciate the privilege of the service, (some doing more and some less) three brethren and five sisters having already distributed about 6,000--to church-goers, to street car passengers, etc. A plan found to be good, is to have along also some of the Arp Tracts, which are less expensive (and supplied free), to give to such as appear less likely to become interested.
If all TOWER readers, not otherwise in the service, would take hold of this work earnestly, a million or two of these "hail" stones would quickly be poured forth to sweep away the refuge of lies.--Isa. 28:17.
Among Romanists there is a recognized principle, which might be termed the law of expediency; which, briefly expressed, is--"The end justifies the means." The all important end is the glory of the Church, let the means be what they may; and every reader of history knows how vile the means have been. And while Protestants do not admit this principle openly, and are scarcely aware that they admit it to any extent, the question of expediency is often raised, and sometimes with considerable bitterness, against the truth--the old theology of the Lord and the apostles and prophets.
Very many of God's children who long since got their eyes open to the fallacy of the doctrine of everlasting torment, and who realize it to be a horrible blasphemy against God's character, permit Satan to seal their lips, and to destroy their influence as children of the light, by getting them to cover their light with the bushel of expediency. He raises before their minds dreadful pictures of what would result if this truth, which so much relieved their minds and refreshed their hearts, and which lifted them into a new atmosphere of joy and peace and love, should become generally known. He points out that they first approached the Lord through fear and under the influence of this error, --without pointing out that they might have received the Lord much sooner under the presentation of the truth, and under the constraining power of love. He points out that they themselves had finally found peace while holding this error, but does not mention how unsatisfactory a peace it was, which continually had unrest for fear of a final slip into eternal torment, either of themselves or their loved ones. Nor does the adversary point out that the proportion in which any obtained peace was to the degree that they forgot or disbelieved the horrible error.
The adversary, furthermore, urges the inexpediency of proclaiming this and other truths on still other grounds; he reminds his victim that though neither reason nor the Bible endorses the doctrine, yet upon it all the creeds and sects of Christendom are built; and that to attack that error is to attack the entire nominal church and to gain the opposition in every way of the most powerful human institution; and that he has no chance for success; and that if he should succeed in overthrowing the error, it would shake and break sectarianism entirely, create a great commotion, and paralyze sectarian efforts at home and in foreign lands.
He does not suggest, however, that the breaking of false creeds, confessions, and of the sects which hold them, would be a great blessing to all the true "wheat," the true church, and would result in bringing them into true unity upon the basis of God's Word and under the bonds of love; and that the only evil would be to the "tare" class, who have no knowledge of God's true church whose names are written in heaven, and who recognize only sectarian systems and memberships whose names are written on earth; and who worship and serve the institutions of their own organizing.
Alas! How many are bound by mistaken expediency, almost as firmly as they [R1122 : page 1] were formerly by errors, from which these truths, which they are ashamed or afraid to acknowledge, set them free.
To stimulate this mistaken idea of expediency, the adversary emboldens some of the shallowest minds and hearts to unreasoningly cry aloud, "Awful heresy!" "Infidelity!" etc.
This he does to draw attention away from the fact that it is the error that is "awful," "blasphemous," "heresy," and veritable infidelity to God's Word.
This cry comes with greatest emphasis from those whose earthly interests of bread and butter, and ease, and comfort, and reputation, and honor, and pride are bound up with this long admitted and established doctrine of fear. And every zealous supporter of so-called Orthodoxy re-echoes the cry of alarm; and as the message of truth, "the good tidings of great joy to all people," goes forth, it is everywhere confronted by the zealous heralds of the bad tidings--of eternal misery to all people, except a holy few who expect to become so God-like that they will praise God the louder when they witness the wretched despair and hopeless eternal torment of their fellow-creatures, who were so unfortunate as never to have received as good a chance as themselves to escape the awful ruin.
These notes of alarm from Babylon, probably hinder many of the Lord's sheep from apprehending his truth. Having trusted too implicitly to the teachings of a self-exalted clergy, and failed to search the Scriptures for themselves, like the "noble Bereans," that their faith might stand in the wisdom of God and not in the wisdom which this world teacheth, they are afraid to disregard their commands now,--afraid to believe their own senses in the study of God's Word.
Let us remind such of the words of the Prophet Isaiah--"Their fear toward me is taught by the precepts of men;" and again, of the Apostle Paul--"For God hath not given to us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." (Isa. 29:13; 2 Tim. 1:7.) That the spirit of love and of a sound mind is a power, "Orthodoxy" fails to see. The scourge of torment, the mean incentive of fear, is held to be a necessity, to restrain men from vice and to inspire them to morality and virtue and secure their admission to heaven when they die.
Before considering the wisdom of God's course, let us first inquire, Has the doctrine of fear accomplished the end which it claims to have in view? No, we answer. The result of this error have only been bad, and that continually; and any good which has been accomplished is due, not to the error, but to the all-powerful truth, --withstanding the friction of error which everywhere opposed its progress. As the result of this error, what do we see, after centuries of effort ostensibly to convert the world, to turn men to God and righteousness? We see just what we should expect to be the miserable fruitage of such doctrine--that it has not only failed to accomplish the world's conversion, which Orthodoxy claims to be its mission, but that it has accomplished the demoralization of the church (nominal) and of all influenced to any extent by it.
Under its influence and misrepresentation of the character of God, every device of tyranny and persecution and torture, in the name of God and religion, has flourished, and largely accomplished its diabolical mission of stamping out truth and righteousness. And as a consequence, we see to-day great antichristian systems of error, built up by centuries [R1122 : page 2] of false teaching and so subtle in their influence as to deceive, if it were possible, the very elect. Their form of godliness draws one class which desires to live godly; but their lack of the power of godliness, truth, soon deadens every real spiritual aspiration. They also draw and encourage a mean hypocritical class of those who assume the garb of Christianity for mercenary and base purposes. And amid an overwhelming host of deceived and hypocritical pretenders, those possessing the genuine article of living faith in the true Word of God, and vital godliness, are to-day at an immense discount among the loudest professors of Christianity. And thinking men of the world--and the thinkers are fast multiplying--are beginning to see, in the light of a better civilization, that this monstrous blasphemy of eternal torment has no foundation in common sense and that it can in no sense be compatible with their natural ideas of morality and virtue and godliness: and, say such, if the Bible teaches this doctrine, as all branches of the church claim, the Bible must be a bad book, and the God of the Bible, if there be such a God, is unworthy of love or worship, or even respect. And some to whom nature and reason whisper, There must be a God, conclude that nature and reason are the only channels through which he may be known or traced. And thus the thinking and nobler minded of the world are driven to Infidelity and Atheism; and the ignorant and the credulous, while they still fear that eternal torment may be a reality, are generally willing to incur the unlikely risk of realizing it, that they may enjoy the pleasures of sin while the opportunity lasts. And the heathen nations never have been and never will be influenced by it.
Such, in brief, have been the results of the doctrine of fear. It has repelled the world from God, and reduced (nominal) Christianity to sham and hypocrisy, and stimulated vice and immorality to the crimes of treason against God and persecution of truth and virtue.
But let us now consider, on the other hand, what power there is in the spirit of love and of a sound mind. A sound mind is a reasonable mind, a mind governed, neither by fickle impulse, nor by superstition, fear, prejudice, nor any other than the noblest faculty which God has given it, namely reason. And reason, if not perverted by pride, or prejudiced by false teaching, leads directly to the fountain of truth in God's inspired Revelation (See, M. DAWN, Vol. I., Chap. iii.); and to one so led, faith in the inspired revelation of the omnipotent God is a most reasonable thing. This reasonable faith, rooted and grounded in the divine testimonies and promises, calls into exercise all the noblest faculties of our moral nature and centers the affections upon the great Author of all truth, whom to know is to love and worship and adore. And this faith, working by love, purifies the heart and transforms the character into the glorious likeness of the blessed God.
Such is the power of love and of a sound mind. It serves God from purest filial love and gratitude, and the only fear it knows is that filial fear of failure to fully manifest love and thankfulness, which is the fear mentioned by the Psalmist (111:10) as the beginning of wisdom. Perfect love casts out all servile fear, and brings the studious and devoted servants of God into active co-operation with all his benevolent plans for the blessing of all his creatures. This is the kind of service God accepts: Those who worship him acceptably must worship him in spirit and in truth--in love and verity, and not hypocritically through fear.
Such results never have been and never can be produced by the "orthodox" doctrine of fear. Why, then, should it be deemed expedient to suppress the true plan of God and still advocate the blasphemous error of eternal torment?
The earnest, sound-minded Christian sees no sufficient reason; though the supporters of Orthodoxy see very grave and weighty ones. They see at once that to renounce this doctrine would be to destroy their systems of theology and completely disintegrate their various organizations, to give the lie to their false teachings, to expose a vast amount of hypocrisy and deceit in high places, to discontinue the gains of oppression, and to humble their pride and assumed dignities and honors in the dust. And truly, before this spirit of fear could be supplanted by the spirit of love and of a sound mind among the great masses of men, these, released from the bondage of fear and not yet restrained and constrained by the power of love and of a sound mind, would suddenly become a dangerous element in the world.
And just this, which "Orthodoxy" fears, the Scriptures declare shall actually come to pass--a time of trouble such as was not since there was a nation--a fearful recompense to great Babylon for her blasphemous misrepresentation of the character and plan of God. Fearful plagues are to be visited upon Babylon, and no wonder she raises the cry of alarm when she sees them coming. To preach the truth is not expedient, she declares,-- "The end (the preservation of the old order of things) justifies the means;"-- the perversion and suppression of truth.
Had the truth been preached by the church from the days of the apostles to the present time, the centuries past would have so fully accomplished the development of true Christian character that the present time, we might safely say, would witness a truly "Christian world." But as it is, when the old errors are overthrown, it would be unreasonable to expect to see a sudden conversion of the world to truth and righteousness. Time is an important element in the arrangements for the world's conversion. It will require a thousand years to accomplish it under the reign of Christ, and since the church (nominal) has frittered away nearly two thousand years and accomplished worse than nothing in this direction, she must reap the reward of her doings--the punishment due her misarranged systems.
God's time to speak has come; and let the prayer of every loyal son of God be, O send forth thy light and thy truth! God will send it forth and is sending it forth: he will vindicate his character and [R1123 : page 2] his cause before an astonished world, and the glorious end will be the peaceable fruits of righteousness in all the earth, when the truth is fully known and its blessed influences have had sufficient time to accomplish the great work of transformation.
If we would be in harmony, and co-workers together with God, therefore, our chief business in life must be the vindication of his character by the preaching of his truth. And so far as our testimony can reach, let the message of his gracious designs be coupled with the wholesome restraints which his justice insures. There shall be a just recompense of reward to every man. The eyes of the Lord are in every place beholding the evil and the good, and every work shall be brought into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. Not the benevolent gift of a cup of cold water shall lose its reward; nor shall any wilful sin against light and opportunity escape its deserved punishment.
It is our business to declare these truths, to preach the gospel without any mixture with the traditions of men, to declare the whole counsel of God, as the church should have done since the days of the apostles, and the results God will take care of, and out of the confusion of the great time of trouble he will bring order and harmony and a grateful recognition of and submission to his righteous authority, based upon the principles of truth and justice. Our effort should always be, however, to accomplish a conversion so complete that it will not only turn men away in disgust from the old errors, but also turn them fully to righteousness. And such conversions there are, when the truth is wisely presented by those who are imbued with its blessed spirit. It is only by the presentation of a measure of truth sufficient to turn men away from doctrinal errors, and yet leave them in their sins, that violence and confusion shall be brought about.
We may not teach men that God is so loving that justice can never exert its power, but, on the other hand, that his justice is so unswerving that his love can in no degree conflict with it, or act contrary to it, and that so important was it that his justice should stand inviolate, that only through the sacrifice of his only begotten Son did his love accomplish his purpose for man's redemption and restitution: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him might not perish, but have everlasting life."
Through Christ alone, therefore, is the great salvation attainable--"through faith in his blood." Without faith in his blood, we can only be judged by God by the rule of strict justice, and it is a fearful thing to fall thus into the hands of the living God; for outside of God's plan for our redemption through Christ, his justice can only condemn us as unworthy of life. Nor do we teach that having once come to a clear knowledge of the truth, we may reject it and sin against it with impunity, or postpone our personal submission and conformity to it, without receiving the penalty for so doing;--the penalty for rejection of full light and opportunity being the second death, from which there is no recovery. By one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified by the truth; but that offering intelligently rejected, there remaineth no more a sacrifice for sin, but a certain looking for of judgment and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversary. But having come to the knowledge of the truth--to which God purposes to bring all men--and to obedience, and to faith in God's appointed way of salvation, not attempting to climb up like a thief or a robber by some other way, the end of such faith and obedience will be everlasting life.
It is expedient, therefore, from God's standpoint of view, that the truth should be fully and clearly proclaimed without regard to the cry of alarm from Babylon, and equally without regard to the disastrous consequences to that system, against which the fiat of destruction has gone forth from Jehovah. "This is the will of God, who will have all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth."
So far as our knowledge and observation have gone, a knowledge, even of the general outlines of God's plan, does not produce carelessness or indifference or a desire to procrastinate coming into conformity with it. On the other hand, we do know of hundreds of sound conversions from sin and infidelity and from every evil course. At the present time there are on our list of subscribers to the TOWER five names of criminals in various prisons who have received the truth, and who have been converted by it. And another whose term expired a few months ago, having been imprisoned for highway robbery, was soundly converted through the reading of The Plan of The Ages and the TOWER while in prison, and has now become an active minister of the gospel, and in the past two months has sold 800 copies of DAWN, Vol. I. Raised in the Methodist church under the influence and fear of the doctrine of eternal torment, he became a highway robber, while under the influence of the truth he became a minister of the gospel. Yes, praise the Lord! it is expedient to preach the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; and we rejoice to know that God will continue to send forth his light and his truth until the earth is filled with his glory, and blessed is every man who is privileged to bear the message.
Cheerfulness is one of the loveliest graces of the Christian character. It belongs to those noble natures whose very presence carries sunshine with them wherever they go.
Sometimes we look into a face which is so cold and repulsive, dark and gloomy, that it makes us feel almost blue to look at it, and which betokens no joy in the heart, no nobility in the soul, no generosity in the nature; the whole character as cold as an iceberg. And again we meet a face so bright, smiling, cheerful, happy, that one glimpse of it does our very souls good, and is like an inspiration to us. And we feel more cheerful ourselves. If we possess a hopeful spirit it will enable us to discern the silver lining of the darkest cloud, behind which ever shines the light of divine promise and help.
True religion is not gloomy, "her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace."--Selected.
Much remainsTo conquer still; Peace hath her victories,
No less renowned than War; new foes arise
Threatening to bind our souls with secular chains.
Help us to save free conscience from the paw,
Of hireling wolves, whose gospel is their maw.
COURAGE! PRESS ON."Tired! well, what of that?
Didst fancy life was spent on beds of ease,
Fluttering the rose leaves scattered by the breeze?
Come, rouse thee! work while it is called to-day:
Courage! arise! go forth upon thy way.
"Lonely! and what of that?
Some must be lonely; 'tis not given to all
To feel a heart responsive rise and fall,
To blend another life within its own:
Work can be done in loneliness. Work on.
"Dark! well, what of that?
Didst fondly dream the sun would never set?
Dost fear to lose thy way? Take courage yet!
Learn thou to walk by faith, and not by sight;
Thy steps will guided be, and guided right.
"Hard! well, what of that?
Didst fancy life one summer holiday,
With lessons none to learn, and naught but play?
Go--get thee to thy task! Conquer or die!
It must be learned; learn it then, patiently."
CALAMITIES--WHY PERMITTED. "EXCEPT YE REPENT, YE SHALL ALL LIKEWISE PERISH."
"There were present at that season some who told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
"Or, those eighteen, upon whom the tower of Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish."--Luke 13:1-5.
Noble and good in the sight of both God and man are the generous impulses, of charity and sympathy, awakened by great calamities in recent years. And when this is said, it leaves little more of good to be said favorable to calamities or their influence.
While these charities should not be misconstrued to signify that God's consecrated saints are rapidly multiplying--for many of the charitable are not the consecrated, and some are even infidels,--yet they are an evidence that at least some of the original God-likeness of our race remains; that it has not been wholly obliterated by the degradation of the fall, nor wholly poisoned by the bad theology of the dark ages. While we live in perhaps as selfish and money-loving a period as any known to history, yet millions of dollars are generously poured forth to aid suffering humanity. And yet many who in times of calamitous distress show that they have a tender spot, somewhere, in their hearts, would and do at other times lend time and brain and skill to the arts of war, and in designing the most horrible implements of warfare; and on occasions when bitter passions are aroused would relentlessly and pitilessly slaughter a thousand times as many as the accidents of nature. Yet, for all this showing of the two elements in the same men, we rejoice [R1124 : page 3] that the God-like element of sympathy exists as a partial offset to the devilish qualities of selfishness and heartlessness, which, under the degrading influence of man's fallen state, have grown strong during the past six thousand years.
Preparatory to looking carefully, reasonably and Scripturally at the question of why does God permit calamities, let us note some of the absurd views of some Christian people, who should know God's Word and character much better than they seem to. Some whose hearts overflow with sympathy and God-like love in the presence of great calamities (which proves their hearts better and more sound than their theology), declare that God is the director and cause of all disasters and troubles. Hence whatever men may do to alleviate such distresses would, according to this false view, be so much done in opposition to God; and whatever love and sympathy they feel, is as much sentiment opposed to God's sentiments, --which are thus made to appear malicious.
But the hideousness of such a character, as is thus ascribed to the God of love, is intensified, when the same good, tender-hearted, but wrong-headed, Papacy-deluded people (whose theology was formed in the "dark ages" when the Bible doctrines concerning God's character and plan had become over-grown with papal superstition and human tradition), tell us their faith in God and their view of his character, is that, He not only looks without pity or sympathy upon man's present calamities and distresses, and fore-ordained them, but that he has furthermore fore-ordained and made fullest preparation for engulfing the vast majority of his creatures in a calamity in comparison with which all the horrors of all earth's calamities united in one would be nothing;--but mere preludes to that most awful, indescribable torment, which would be wholly unendurable, but that God with fiendish cruelty will perpetuate life under such awful conditions, forever and forever, in order to have them suffer, and will never relieve them. And why? Simply because, when told that such was God's character and plan, they would not love him, nor praise as good and just such a plan; or because millions of others had died in ignorance of the Lord Jesus, through faith in whom, alone, any can be acceptable before God.
It is surprising that any who possess the spirit of God, to any extent, can thus blaspheme his holy name? It is surprising that they do not know more of the character of the Creator than this, even without the Bible testimony to his character of love and justice, to advise them of his plan in Christ for blessing all the families of the earth; the declaring of which plan constitutes the "good tidings of great joy [not of eternal torment] which shall be unto all people." Verily, God is more villified by many of his children than by the infidel world. And yet, how strange! the very Bible which declares God's true character of love and justice, they have been led to consider as the authority for these devilish doctrines and false interpretation of our Lord's parables and of the symbols of the book of Revelation, originated by those who during the "dark ages" used to burn and torment Bible believers.
GOD'S LOVE--HOW SHOWN.
When we declare that whatever there is of love and sympathy in man, is only the remnant of the original divine likeness, in which Adam was created, not wholly effaced by six thousand years of degradation in sin, it at once raises the question: In what way does God manifest his sympathy and love in such emergencies, when even the hearts of fallen human beings are touched, with sympathy and love, to acts of kindness and succor?
A correct answer is, that God is represented in every act of kindness done, whether by his children or by the world; because their actions under such circumstances are the results, in some measure, of his character and disposition. And yet this answer is not full enough to be satisfactory. But, thank God, a fuller investigation, in the light of his Word, reveals a boundless sympathy on God's part,-- providing also an abundant succor, which is shortly to be revealed.
But why does not God immediately succor his creatures from calamities? Or, to go still farther back, why does he who has all wisdom to know and all power to prevent, permit calamities,--cyclones, earthquakes, tidal-waves, destructive floods, pestilences, etc.? And while we are about it, we may as well include all the evils which God could, if he would, prevent --all the forms of sickness and pain and death; every form of destruction-- wars, murders, etc.; every thing which causes pain or trouble to those willing to do and be in harmony with God? The answer to one of these questions will be the answer to every question on the subject; for all human evils are related and have a common source or cause.
To fully comprehend this cause, we must go far back, to the very beginning of sickness, pain, death and sorrow,--to the Garden of Eden, where neither famine, pestilence, cyclones, earthquakes, nor death in any form was permitted; where man and his surroundings and conditions were pronounced "very good," even by God himself, and certainly greatly appreciated by man, who had to be driven out and prevented from returning by the fiery sword which kept the way of access to the life-sustaining fruits of the trees of the garden.
How came it that the Creator, who so graciously provided for the life and comfort of his creatures, and who communed with them and gave them his blessing and the promise of everlasting life upon the sole condition of continued obedience, should so change in his attitude toward his creatures, as to drive them from the enjoyments of those Eden comforts and blessings, out into the unprepared earth-- to toil and weariness and insufficient sustenance, and thus to death?
We must remember that only the Garden of Eden was "prepared," and fit for man's comfortable enjoyment of the favor of life. The preparation of the whole earth for man, requiring in a natural way seven thousand years more to entirely fit it for the habitation of perfect, obedient, human children of God, the Creator specially or miraculously prepared the Garden of Eden in advance merely as a fit place for Adam's trial. God foresaw the fall of his creature, and provided that the penalty for sin, "dying thou shalt die," instead of being suddenly inflicted as by a lightning stroke, or other speedy method, should be served out gradually by conflict with the unfavorable conditions (of climate, sterility of soil, storms, miasms, thorns, weeds, etc.,) of the as yet unprepared earth.
Adam and Eve, therefore, went forth from Eden convicts, under sentence of death; self-convicted under the most just of all judges, their Creator and friend. The convicts esteemed it a mercy to be let die gradually rather than suddenly; while to the Creator and judge this was expedient because of a plan he had for their future, in which such experience with imperfect conditions would be of great value;--a plan for the increase of the race, and for its discipline and final redemption and restoration.
The death penalty, inflicted in this manner, God foresaw would furnish man, through experience, such a lesson on the exceeding sinfulness of sin and its baneful results as would never need to be repeated; --a lesson, therefore, which will profit all who learn it to all eternity; especially when Christ's Millennial reign of righteousness shall manifest in contrast the fruits of righteousness: God also designing that the exercise of man's mental faculties in coping with the disturbances and imperfections of his surroundings and in inventing reliefs, and the exercise of his moral faculties in combating his own weaknesses, and the calls upon his sympathy should prove beneficial.
Had the sentence of God (in addition to a loss of Eden's comforts and experience with sin and death,) condemned his creatures to an eternity of torment and anguish, as so many now believe and teach, who could defend such a sentence, or call the Judge just, or loving, or in any sense good? Surely no one of a sound mind!
But when it is seen that the Scriptures teach that death (extinction), and not life in torment, was the penalty pronounced and inflicted, all is reasonable. God has a right to demand perfect obedience from his perfect creature when placed under perfect conditions, as in Adam's case. And the decree that none shall live everlastingly except the perfect, is both a wise and a just provision for the everlasting welfare of all God's creatures.
There is a depth of meaning in the Creator's words, as he sent forth his fairly tried and justly condemned creatures, among the thorns and briars, to labor and pain, and sorrow, and disease, and to be subject to the casualties and calamities of nature's unfinished work. He said:-- "Cursed is the ground FOR THY SAKE:" i.e., the earth in general is in its present imperfect condition for your profit and experience; even though you may not esteem it so. Adam would have sought to retain continual access to the garden fruits, to avoid severe labor and to enable him to fully sustain his vital powers and live forever; but in loving consideration for man's ultimate good, no less than in justice, and in respect of his own sentence of death, God prevented this and guarded the way back to the garden, in order that the death sentence should not fail of execution, in order that sinners should not live forever and thus perpetuate sin.
The children of the condemned pair inherited their fall, imperfections and weaknesses, and also the penalties of these; for "who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?" The whole race, therefore, [R1125 : page 3] as convict laborers, have not only been learning what sin and evil are, and their undesirable results, but by their labor and skill they are serving to prepare the earth and bring it as a whole to the full perfection designed for it, and illustrated in the condition of Eden--ready for a further purpose of God of which none but his children (and not all of them) are made aware through the Scriptures.
We can see, then, that labor and toil were prescribed for man's good. They have kept him so employed that he could not plan and consummate evil to the same extent that he otherwise would have done. And as the earth becomes more fertile, approaching perfection, man's vitality becomes less; so that now, with greater leisure to plot and scheme and grow wise in evil, the period of life in which to do so is shorter. What a mercy in disguise present shortness of life is, under present circumstances. Were some of our "shrewd business men" who accumulate millions of money, and grasp great power, in a few short years, to live 930 years, as Adam did, what might we expect but that one man, or at most a syndicate or trust, would own every foot of land, control every drop of water and every breath of air, and have the rest of the race for their dupes and slaves?
God's action, then, in exposing his creatures to death, pain and various calamities, it must first of all be seen, was one which related only to his present life on earth, and to no other; for of any continuance of life, in any other locality, God did not give him the slightest intimation. On the contrary, the words of the [R1125 : page 4] penalty were, "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return,"--"dying thou shalt die."--Gen. 3:19; 2:17, margin.
True, God gave promise that, somehow and at some time, a son of the woman should accomplish a deliverance. But it was vague and indefinite then, merely a glimmer of hope, to show them that though God dealt severely with them, and on lines of law and justice, he yet sympathized with them, and would, ultimately, without violating justice or ignoring his own righteous sentence of death, bring them succor.
Paul tells us that God adopted a method for the recovery of man, from that original sentence of death which came upon all as the result of Adam's fall, which would show the justice of his sentence and the unchangeableness of his decrees, and yet permit such as are sick of sin to use their experience wisely, and to return to harmony and obedience to their Creator and his just and reasonable laws and regulations.
This divine plan, by which God could remain just and unchangeable in his attitude toward sin and sinners, and yet release the well-disposed from the penalty of sin (death and disfavor), is stated by the Apostle in Rom. 3:24-26.
In brief, this plan provided that another man who, by obedience to the law of God, should prove his worthiness of eternal life, might, by the willing sacrifice of the life to which he was thus proved worthy, redeem the forfeited life of Adam and of his posterity who lost life through him; for it is written, "In Adam all die," and "By the offence of one sentence of condemnation came on all men."--1 Cor. 15:22; Rom. 5:12,18.
Since the condemnation to death was thus upon all men, and since another man newly created and inexperienced as Adam was, though just as favorably situated, would have been similarly liable to fall, God devised the marvelous plan of transferring his only begotten Son from the spiritual to the human nature, and thus provided a man fit for sacrifice-- "the man Christ Jesus who gave himself a ransom for all;" "who, though he was rich [though he was possessed of glory and honor and riches of wisdom and power above both angels and men], nevertheless for our sakes became poor [humbling himself to a lower nature, even as a man, becoming obedient even unto death] that we through his poverty might be made rich."--1 Tim. 2:5; 2 Cor. 8:9.
Thus the one first created, "the firstborn of all creation" (Col. 1:15), "the beginning of the creation of God" (Rev. 3:14), the one who had known God's character longer, more fully and more intimately than any other being, the one in fact who had been Jehovah's chief and honored, intelligent and active agent in the creation of angels as well as of men, the one by whom all things were made, and aside from whom not anything was made (John 1:3; Col. 1:16,17) --this great being, Jehovah's Prime Minister, and next to himself in dignity, the Almighty entrusted with the great work of redeeming and restoring mankind.
To redeem them would cost the sacrifice of his own life as their ransom-price, with all that that implied of suffering and self-denial. To restore them (such of them as shall prove worthy--whosoever wills,) will require the exercise of divine power to open the prison-house of death, and to break the fetters of sin and prejudice and superstition, and give to all the redeemed the fullest opportunity to decide whether they love good or evil, righteousness or sin, truth or error, and to destroy all who love and work iniquity, and to develop and perfect again all who love and choose life upon its only condition--righteousness.
To know the Father's plan and his privilege of co-operation in its execution, was to appreciate it and joyfully engage therein. Willingly our Lord Jesus laid aside the glory of the higher nature which he had had with the Father from before the creation of man. (John 17:5; 2 Cor. 8:9.) He was "made flesh" (John 1:14; Heb. 2:14), became a man at thirty years of age, and then began the great work of sacrifice, the sacrifice of himself, a perfect man, for the cancellation of the sin of the first man, to recover Adam and his race by dying on their behalf, as their Redeemer. By giving to Justice the price of their liberty from divine condemnation, he secured the legal right to cancel the sentence of condemnation to death against them, and hence the right to resurrect or restore to life and to all the lost estate and blessings, "whomsoever he wills." (Rev. 22:17.) And he wills to restore all who shall prove worthy. And to prove who are worthy will be the object of the Millennial reign.--1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9.
This fact that our Lord's mission to earth at the first advent was to undo for the race, legally, the results of Adam's transgression, and to secure the right to resurrect them and restore them, is clearly stated by the Apostle.--See, Rom. 5:5-12, 16-19,21; 1 Cor. 15:21-24.
Though tempted in all points like as we (his "brethren") are, he ignored his own will (Luke 22:42; John 4:34; 5:30) and all suggestions from others contrary to God's plan (Matt. 16:23; Luke 4:4,8,12), and obeyed God implicitly. And therein lay the secret of his success. Temptations did not overcome him, as they did even the perfect man Adam, because of the fulness of his consecration to the divine will and plan; and this fulness of consecration and trust was the result of his intimate knowledge of the Father and his unbounded confidence in his wisdom, love and power. He had recollection of his previous existence as a spirit being with the Father. (John 17:5; 3:12,13.) Our Lord's success, then, was the result of being rightly exercised by his knowledge of God; as it is written: "By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many, while bearing their iniquities." --Isa. 53:11.
The suggestive thoughts here are two: First, that even a perfect man failed in trial because of the lack of full appreciation of God's greatness, goodness and resources. Secondly, the knowledge (as in Satan's case) would be valueless, if unaccompanied by sincere love and consecration to God's will. A lesson further, to Christ's "brethren," is, that knowledge and consecration are both essential to their following in the Master's footsteps.
Among men he and his mission were not really known; even his most ardent followers and admirers at first supposed that his mission was merely to heal some of the sick Jews, and to advance their nation to the rulership of a dying world, and to be a teacher of morals; they saw not at first that his mission was to lay the foundation of a world-wide empire, which should not only include the living, but also the dead, of Adam's race, and which should insure peace and joy everlastingly to all the worthy, by eradicating, forever, sin and all who love it after fully comprehending its character in contrast with righteousness. Even his friends and disciples were slow to realize these grand dimensions of his work, though he continually repeated them, and bore witness, saying: "The Son of man came to give his life a ransom for many;" "Verily, verily, the hour is coming* when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear [obey] shall live." "The Lord hath sent me to preach deliverance to the captives [of death] and recovering of sight to the [mentally, morally and physically] blind; to set at liberty them that are bruised"--injured by the Adamic fall.--Matt. 20:28; John 5:25; Luke 4:18.
*Sinaitic MS. omits the words and now is.
The sacrifice of the Redeemer's all, as man's ransom price, was offered at the time he was thirty years old--at his baptism. And there the offering was accepted by Jehovah, as marked by his anointing with the spirit. Thenceforth, the three and a half years of his ministry he spent in using up the consecrated life already offered; and this he completed at Calvary. There the price of our liberty was paid in full. "It is finished!" It holds good; it is acceptable by the grace of God, as the offset and covering for every weakness and sin of the first man, and his posterity, resulting either directly, or indirectly, from the first disobedience and fall. All that is necessary since, for a full return to divine favor and communion, and to an inheritance in the Paradise of God, which [R1126 : page 4] the great Redeemer in due time has promised to establish in the entire earth, as at first in the Garden of Eden, is, a recognition of sin, full repentance, and a turning from sin to righteousness. Christ will establish righteousness in the earth by the Kingdom of God, which he has promised shall be established, and for which he has bidden us wait and hope, and for which he taught us to pray, "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth even as it is done in heaven."
Under that blessed and wise rule of Christ as King of nations,* all the evil, depraved tendencies inherited from the fall and from the six thousand years of degradation, will be restrained, held in check, by super-human wisdom, love and power; and all being brought to a clear knowledge of the truth in its every phase, all will be fairly and fully tested. The lovers of righteousness will be perfected and given control of the perfected earth, while those loving unrighteousness under that clear light of knowledge and experience will, as followers of Satan's example, be utterly destroyed in the Second Death. The first death is the destruction to which all were subjected by Adam's sin, but from which all were redeemed by the Lord Jesus' sacrifice; and the second death is that destruction which will overtake those who, though redeemed by Christ from the first death, shall, by their own wilful conduct, merit and receive death again. This second death means utter destruction, without hope of another redemption or resurrection; for Christ dieth no more. Nor could any good reason for their further trial be assigned; for the trial granted during the Millennial age under Christ, as Judge, will be a thorough and fair and individual and final trial.--1 Cor. 15:25.
*Not visibly in flesh, however, for he is no longer flesh, having been highly exalted again, after he had finished the flesh-life by giving it as our ransom price.--See, "The Time at Hand," Chap. v.
"YE SHALL ALL LIKEWISE PERISH" UNLESS YE REPENT.
Death, in whatever form it may come, is perishing, ceasing to exist. All mankind, through Adam's transgression, came under condemnation to loss of life, to "perish," "to be as though they had not been." And only one way of escape from that condemnation has been provided. (Acts 4:12.) Because of Christ's redemptive work all may escape perishing by accepting the conditions of life. During Christ's Millennial reign those whom Pilate slew, and those upon whom the tower of Siloam fell, and all others of the race, sharers in the death penalty now upon all, will be released from the tomb, brought to a knowledge of Christ, his ransom work, and their privilege of repentance and full restitution to divine favor,--life, etc. Thus seen, the Adamic death penalty was--to perish; but it has been canceled by Christ's Ransom, so far as it relates to those who, when brought to know the Redeemer, shall forsake sin. No longer should it be regarded as a perished condition, but as a "sleep" (John 11:11-14; Matt. 9:24; 1 Thes. 4:14; 5:10), from which the Redeemer will awaken all, to give each who did not have it before being overtaken by Adam's death, a full, individual opportunity to escape perishing and live forever. Yet, finally, all who shall fail to repent and lay hold upon the gracious Life-giver shall perish; they will fail to obtain the full restitution provided; they shall never see [perfect] life [full restitution] for the wrath or condemnation of God will abide on them, condemning them to death as unworthy of life. As this will be their second condemnation, and an individual one, so the penalty will be the second death, which will not be general to the race, but only upon such individuals as refuse God's favor of reconciliation and life.
As our Lord Jesus used the calamities of his time, as illustrating the just penalty against all who do not flee sin and lay hold upon the Redeemer and Life-giver, so we use them. We declare that destruction, perishing, is the just penalty of sin taught in the Scriptures. We denounce the eternal torment theory, so generally believed by God's children, as unscriptural; as one of Satan's blasphemous slanders against God's character. And we proclaim that only by faith in the Redeemer, repentance and reformation, can the gift of God, eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord, be obtained. Whoever hears the offer of life is responsible to the extent that he understands it; and according to God's promise and plan all mankind shall, at some time, either during the Gospel age, or during the coming Millennial age, be brought to a full, clear appreciation of these conditions and opportunities, with fullest opportunities for repentance and life.
Calamities, then, are to be regarded, generally, as accidents, attributable to human imperfection and lack of experience, or to disturbances incidental to the preparation of the earth for its more quiet and perfect condition during the Sabbath or Seventh Thousand years (the Millennium), and for its state of absolute perfection forever after the Millennium, which, under Christ's direction, shall give it its finishing touches and make it fully ready for the redeemed race, which his reign shall prepare also to rightly use and enjoy and rule the perfected earth. And man is exposed to these calamities and accidents, and not defended from them by his Almighty Creator, because, first, man is a sinner condemned to death anyway, and is not to be spared from it, but must be allowed to pass through it; and secondly, by the present experiences with trouble and sorrow and pain, all of which are but elements of death, mankind is learning a lesson and laying up in store an experience with sin and its awful concomitants, sorrow, pain and death, which will be valuable in the Millennial age, when each shall be required to choose between good and evil. The evil they [R1126 : page 5] learn first, now; the good and its blessed results and rewards, but dimly seen now, will be fully displayed then,--during the Millennium.
But some one inquires, If this be God's plan, for redeeming the world by the death of his Son and justifying and restoring all who believe in and accept of him, and obey and love righteousness, why did not the Millennial reign of Christ with its favorable conditions and powerful restraints begin at once, as soon as Christ had given the ransom price at Calvary; instead of compelling those who would follow righteousness, to sail through bloody seas and suffer for righteousness sake? Or else, why not have postponed the giving of the ransom until the close of the six thousand years of evil and the inauguration of the Millennial reign? Or, at least, if the present order of events is best in the divine wisdom, why does not God specially protect from calamities, accidents, sorrow, pain, death, etc., those who have fully accepted of Christ and who have sacrificed and are using their all in the service of righteousness?
Ah yes! The subject would be incomplete were this point left untouched. The consecrated saints, the church of the Gospel age, are a "peculiar people," different from the rest of the redeemed race; and God's dealings with them are peculiar and different also. Inasmuch as it was God's purpose to highly honor and exalt our Lord Jesus far above all others, because of his faithful obedience even to self-sacrifice, so it was his purpose to select a "little flock" for his companionship in glory, who, after being justified by Christ's sacrifice and reconciled to God by the death of his Son, should develop so much of a likeness to his Son, by intently following his words and example, that they, like him (though far less fully than he because of weaknesses of the flesh), should likewise so love righteousness and truth, and so delight to do God's will, that they would do it at any cost or sacrifice of earthly pleasures, or comforts, or esteem among men--even unto death.
The space of time between the giving of the ransom for all, and the establishment of the kingdom which is to bestow upon mankind the blessings purchased, is for the very purpose of selecting a "little flock" of under kings and priests, Christ's companions in the honors and work of the Kingdom, otherwise called, as a class, "the Bride, the Lamb's wife." The selection of this class must take place during a time when evil, trouble and sin have sway in the world; for it is by the special opposition of evil and sin, to God's plan and to all in harmony with it, that these are to be specially tried and tested; that only "overcomers" shall be selected and given this very honorable and responsible position.
Not only is this class required to follow after righteousness and truth, and to support them and oppose sin, to their present discomfort and loss, but they are required to do all this on the strength of faith, outward evidences being often contrary to faith. A part of their test is, that they must walk by faith and not by sight. They are to believe God's promises though every outward circumstance seems to contradict it. This is part of their lesson as well as part of their trial.
They are to believe God's testimony, that death and trouble entered the world as a result of Adam's sin, and that a fall from perfection took place in Eden, no matter what speculations among scientists may suggest to the contrary,--as that Adam was evolved from an ape, and that the Bible story of the fall, the condemnation and the redemption are alike unscientific; that Christ, like Confucius, was a great teacher, but nothing more; that he accomplished no redemption and that none could have been needful or required. The saints are to shun all such babblings of science and philosophy, falsely so-called, and to walk by faith in God's revelation.-- Rom. 5:12-20.
Though they see errors flourish and Scriptural truths spurned and disregarded, they are to disregard numbers and human traditions and, by faith, hold to God's Word. Though told by God that they are redeemed and no longer under his [R1127 : page 5] condemnation and disfavor with the rest of the world, they are to believe and walk by faith, nothing doubting, even though they are not the recipients of special earthly favors, and even though they, like others, have a share of sickness, pain and death.
Their advantages are often less than those of other men, and their course often much more up-hill and rough. They walk by faith and not by sight, however; they endure as seeing him who is invisible, and the crown which is invisible, and the kingdom which is invisible, and as though they already had everlasting life, though they die like other men. In all these things, yea, in everything, they are required to walk by faith and not by sight, if they would be crowned overcomers and made heirs in the coming kingdom.
Their advantages are all invisible to the world, and are seen only by the eye of faith. Their peace and joy are dependent upon their knowledge and trust of God and his plan; and their knowledge and trust depend upon their faith in his Word of promise. By faith they "know [even when outward evidences seem contrary] that all things are working together" for their ultimate good, and that the glories and blessings of the future shall far over-balance all the trials and troubles and wounds of the present; and so believing from such a standpoint, it is well said that these have a joy and peace, even amid tribulation, which the world can neither give nor take away.
What advantage, then, hath a true, consecrated Christian in the present time? Much every way; both in the life that now is, and also in that which is to come. All things are yours; for ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's, and ye are accepted of God in and through the merit of Christ."Soul, then know thy full salvation,No matter how dark the clouds, no matter how unfavorable the circumstance on its surface, thou hast the heavenly assurance, that--
Rise o'er sin and fear and care;
Joy to find in every station,
Something still to do or bear."
"All must work for good to thee."
Even those things which may seem to be, and to the world are, accidents, cannot be so regarded in connection with these so peculiarly precious in God's sight. Nothing transpires without your Father's knowledge --not even a sparrow falls, nor a hair of your heads. And since infinite wisdom, infinite love, and infinite power are pledged to our aid, and guarantee us against all that would not be for our ultimate good, with how much confidence and trust all such may free themselves from harassing care and anxiety, and with how much courage they may press on, committing their way unto the Lord, and engaging heart and hand and brain in his service; for we also "know that our labor is not in vain in the Lord." Like their Master, such shall yet see results for all their travail of soul which will fully recompense or satisfy them. Such may rejoice even in tribulation, knowing the results. Even the families of the saints, and all that concerns them, are precious to the Lord for their sakes.
Courage, then, dear family of God! Be strong! quit you like men! Endure hardness as good soldiers; endure as seeing the Lord and the prize, though they are invisible except to your eye of faith. Expect not to reign, nor to be exempted from trial and sufferings, until the battle is ended--until Evil (sin, as well as disaster, trouble and death, its accompaniments) shall be removed by our Redeemer, who soon is to take his great power and reign to deliver the groaning creation from all its present distresses.
"Behold, we bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be unto all people." (Luke 2:10.) Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord; for though for a little moment he hid his face and permitted calamities to scourge and destroy his creatures because of their transgression, yet in great mercy he hath provided our ransom price; yea, he hath highly exalted him to be both Priest and King to cleanse from sin, and to rule to perfect all who will then submit their hearts to him and obey him. From such he shall wipe away all tears; and sorrow and dying, and every evil, shall be no more. "Behold, I make all things new.""Tell the whole world the blessed tidings;
Speak of the time of rest that nears;
Tell the oppressed of every nation
Jubilee lasts a thousand years."
PAUL'S CHARGE TO TIMOTHY.
"This charge [message] I commit to thee, son Timothy, in harmony with the teachings previously given thee [to guide thee], that by these thou mayest carry on the good contest, holding faith and a good conscience, which some having put away, concerning faith have made shipwreck."
"I give thee charge in the sight of God who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed the good confession, that thou keep this commandment [Greek, entole-- "this thing given in charge"--this doctrine given by divine inspiration] without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: which [good confession or sound faith] will be manifested in due time by that blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords--the only one possessing immortality, inhabiting light inaccessible, whom no one of men has seen, nor is able to see, to whom be honor and power everlasting."-- 1 Tim. 1:18,19; 6:13-16.
We have frequently noticed and called attention to the earnest exhortations and careful instructions given to Timothy by the faithful Apostle Paul. But while these instructions were applicable and profitable to Timothy in his day, they apply with still greater force to the Gospel Church as a whole, of which Timothy was a member, and of which we have reason to believe he was a figure, or representative.
Of this we have evidence in the general character of the epistles addressed to Timothy, which implies either that Timothy, or the class which he represented and of which he formed a part, would be living down into the end of the age. We believe, then, that in the person of Timothy as a representative, the entire Gospel Church is here addressed by Paul, and we notice that the name Timothy signifies--"honor of God." The church honors God and is to have honor conferred upon her by God. In the present age the honor consists in the fact that so important a "charge" is committed to her trust. And those thus honored in this age, and who prove faithful to the trust, will in the next age be yet more highly exalted and honored.
Three times Paul most solemnly and earnestly repeats this charge. He thanked the Lord that though he had been a blasphemer and persecutor of the church, yet he had obtained mercy, because he did it ignorantly, and verily thought that in so doing he was doing God service, and had been put into the ministry, the glorious gospel of the blessed God being committed to his trust. (1 Tim. 1:11-13.) And now knowing that age was creeping on, and that perils surrounded him on every hand, and before writing the second letter, saying that he was about to be offered, he commits this charge to the faithful ones who must carry on the work after his departure.
The charge was to keep the blessed gospel untarnished and "without spot," to keep it in its glorious simplicity and purity, unmixed with human theories and [R1128 : page 5] false doctrines, which even then the enemies of the cross of Christ were laboring to introduce. The rising errors must be guarded against, first, by maintaining a clear conscience; and secondly, by faithful study of the word of God. To study the Word of God with a clear conscience is to study it with the single and only purpose of knowing and doing God's will. This, Paul says, some in his day did not do; they had theories and plans of their own, and endeavored to wrest the Scriptures to give their theories seeming support; and thus they made shipwreck of their own faith and turned others out of the way. As the end of the age should approach such false teachers he said were to multiply and gain great influence, and overthrow the faith of all who should not meekly and devoutly walk with God, trusting alone in his faithful word.
Next to guarding ourselves thus--and those who thus do so have the power of God pledged to keep them from falling-- is the charge to help others to stand: to help them by earnestly contending for the faith; by pointing out the snares of the adversaries of the truth, and by calling attention boldly and fearlessly to every pitfall and placing the light of truth over it.
To preach this "glorious gospel of the blessed God," to present it in its purity and grandeur, to contend against the errors which friends and enemies seek to engraft upon it, is the charge given to and the duty devolving upon the church in the present time--the charge which we must keep and labor to sustain until the appearing (manifestation, or bright-shining) of our Lord Jesus Christ. Before the brightness and glory of his presence the darkness of ignorance and error shall flee away, and no hiding place shall be found for them; for the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the earth as the waters cover the sea, when his presence is fully revealed to all.
Till thus relieved of this duty of guarding the truth, the church must wait for her victory, must watch against the dangers of abounding and wide-spreading error, and the seducing temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil, must pray for and use divine strength in enduring hardness as good soldiers unto the end, and must boldly and nobly contend for the faith delivered in charge to the saints. "Blessed is that servant whom his Lord when he cometh shall find so doing." Those not so doing will not be counted worthy to be gathered among Christ's jewels.
It should be borne in mind also that in the days of his presence, before his manifestation to the world, there is even greater necessity for watching and contending for the faith than at any previous time,--since his presence is discerned by the church only by faith in the foretold indications, and since the perils occasioned by numerous false doctrines and many antichrists are greatly increased; so much [R1128 : page 6] so, that only those who have on the whole armor of God are able to stand and to contend for the faith in the face of such subtle and crafty opposition. The charge is to stand well armed, and to contend for the faith until his manifestation to the world, in the close of the perilous times of this harvest.
How solemn the obligation:--"I give thee charge in the sight of God who quickeneth all things"--the great Life-giver or Father of all, Jehovah. We are his representatives in the earth; the honor of his name is to be vindicated in the presence of his enemies and before many of his deceived children; his glorious plan is to be published broadcast in opposition to all the worldly-wise schemes which men are and have been trying to invent. And his eye is upon us, marking how faithfully or unfaithfully we as his ambassadors represent him.
Not only do we receive this charge in the sight of God, but also "before the anointed Jesus," our great example and forerunner, who also bore witness to the truth, sacrificing all things for the privilege of witnessing to it--even unto death.
All told, the church is but a little flock: they are generally also the humble poor of this world, who have little influence among men. Nevertheless their charge is an important one. They must "hold the fort" until the Lord himself shall in power and great glory establish the truth and exalt his church. He will complete what we in our present condition accomplish only in part: He will scatter all the mists and let in the broad sunlight of his truth, until none need say to his neighbor, "Know the Lord--for all shall know him from the least unto the greatest," as represented in his plan, work and office. Already the light of his presence begins to dawn. Already he begins to lift the veil of error and to restore, with increasing beauty and clearness, the truths he first inculcated and afterward left to his church in charge.
The substance of this sound faith left in charge at first was, "This is life eternal that they might know thee," Jehovah;-- know his goodness, know his love, know his power and his justice; that knowing of God's character as revealed by Christ they might delight to accept his proffered aid through Christ, and returning to God be abundantly pardoned; and, continuing to grow in knowledge and love and devotedness to God, be accepted as co-workers and co-heirs with Christ Jesus, their Redeemer and Lord.
Our Lord's work at his second advent will be similar, the Apostle assures us: He will take up the same truth, which he first taught, the same that was given into the church's charge during his absence, and will show to all the world of mankind, the real character and plan of God the Father;--i.e., he will cause all to know and appreciate the character and plan of Jehovah, the blessed and only potentate; King of all kings, and Lord of all lords; who alone possessed, originally and innately, immortality; who dwells in light unapproachable.
Courage, the, brethren! Our great Commander is even now upon the battle field. "Stand fast; quit you like men; be strong!" the fiercest part of the conflict is just before the shout of victory is heard; the darkest hour is just before the dawn of day. As triumphant conquerors, O faithful few, you shall soon wear the laurels of immortality and eternal glory.
The witnessing of the church through the long dark centuries of the Gospel age has not been in vain. The object of her mission was not to convert the world before the Lord's return, but to develop her own character and prove her worthiness of the high exaltation which she is called to share with her Lord, while bearing witness to the world of the facts of the glorious gospel, which shall be good tidings of great joy to all people, when in due time it is testified to all.
Then continue to preach the word. Be instant in season and out of season;-- when it suits your convenience and when it does not. Reprove, rebuke, exhort with all patience and doctrine, and study to show yourselves workmen approved unto God, rightly dividing the word of truth. Thus, speaking the truth in love and growing up into Christ our living head, may we each be found in acceptable readiness to be gathered among the Lord's jewels. And to this end let us each see to it, that what faith we hold is held with a good conscience,--honestly held and honestly acted upon.
THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY, NO. I.
That at this time of day there should be anything new to be said on the subject of Christian Ministry, and that any one should, by appealing to the New Testament alone, lay open such a statement on this theme as must, if true, tend to disturb the composure of every sect, would appear to many too strange for credence; yet the very fact, that numerous religious divisions in Christendom have established many varieties of ministry, and that all of them appeal to the Scriptures for the validity of their ministerial arrangements, is a prima facie argument for a new examination of the question, as it is quite obvious that only one of the sects can, by possibility, have discovered the truth.
At the same time, it is far more probable that all should have erred than that only one should be right. Every one who has not taken for granted the perfect and unimpeachable conditions of the "denomination" in which he happens to be enrolled, must acknowledge the force of this argument. And when the history of Protestant divisions is duly weighed; when their origin and the circumstances that led to their formation are calmly considered; when it is remembered that not one of them can put in a claim to a divine birth (for we know the pedigrees of them all, and can most accurately describe their earthly lineage), then must the argument be much strengthened, so that we need scarcely fear stating, that it is in the highest degree improbable that any known sect should have come to indubitable conclusions on the article of Christian Ministry.
In the great Reformation this momentous question was never fairly examined, or rather we may say it was slurred over as too delicate and dangerous to handle. Luther indeed saw very clearly the master-truths of the spiritual priesthood of all believers--liberty of ministry for all the saints, the total abrogation of all official priesthood in Christianity, and the vanity and absurdity of "ordination." He had nothing more to learn on these points; but then, as in many other instances, he did not think it necessary or politic to press his views, or to insist on them as a part of the Reformation. It is well known that he tolerated many absurdities in worship and ceremonies, probably because he despaired of weaning the people from them; and thus he tolerated ordination [R1129 : page 6] though he made a joke of it in his letters, and unmercifully quizzed his brother reformers who had some grand doings at their* "ordinations."
*The imposition of hands in ordination was a perplexing question to the Protestants; thus, for some time, the whole senate of Geneva, consisting of many laymen, used, by imposition of hands, to ordain the ministers. Calvin and Farel objected to this practice. The Kirk of Scotland, a branch of Calvin's church, in the year 1560, renounced ordination by imposition of hands, as a "superstition:" eighteen years later, they restored it!
The Protestant party, headed by Melanchthon, were so little solicitous to place "ministry" on Scriptural foundation, that they rather showed a disposition to yield to all the papal decrees concerning the Priesthood. In the confession of Augsburg, the Protestants thus warily expressed themselves in the 14th article:--"Concerning the ecclesiastical order, they [the Protestants] teach that no one ought to teach publicly in the church, or to administer the sacraments, unless he be duly called." To this the papal party replied:--
"When in their fourteenth article they confess that no one ought to administer the word and the sacraments in the church unless he be duly called, it ought to be clearly understood that he only is duly called who is called according to the form of the canon law, and the ecclesiastical sanctions and decrees, which, up to this time, have everywhere been observed in the Christian world; not called according to the vocation of Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:20), or a tumultuous election of the people, or any other irregular intrusion: for no one taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron."
The Protestants, in their "Apology of the Confession," thus notice this stricture:-- "Our fourteenth article, in which we say that the administration of the sacraments and of the word should be allowed to no one unless he be duly called, they accept, if only we make use of canonical ordination. On this subject we have frequently testified in the diet of Augsburg, that we, with the greatest willingness, desire to preserve the ecclesiastical polity, even the degrees of priesthood that have been made in the church by human authority; for we know that ecclesiastical discipline, as set forth by the ancient canons, was established by the fathers for a good and useful purpose; but the [papal] bishops compel our priests either to renounce and condemn the doctrine which we have confessed, or else kill them, innocent as they are, with new and unheard-of cruelties. For this cause our priests are prevented from acknowledging the bishops."
Here, then, we see the perilous position of "ministry" during the Reformation; and we can therefore well understand how, in such circumstances, there was little likelihood that the question should be investigated, as it deserves to be, with a professed and unhesitating submission to the Word of God.
But this is not all, for "ministry" must needs be produced in some form by the Protestants, and that form must of necessity be accommodated to the worldly position which the Protestant religion assumed at first, and has retained ever since. For it is to be remembered that the Reformers never acknowledged the heavenly calling of the saints; never confessed that the church had her polity only in heavenly places; never hesitated to draw the sword in "defence of their civil and religious liberties:" never declined from power and authority in the world, but rather, under the auspices of princes and magistrates, sought to establish the Gospel as a handmaid of Government, and, as if a second Joshua were their leader, to drive the enemy out of the land, that they might take possession of the fertile Canaan, long defiled with papal abominations.
The world, then, being the portion of the Protestant religion, its ministry required a substantial and consolidated formation, suited for its earthly calling and its contentious life; and that it soon obtained on the Continent, and in England and Scotland, according to the arrangements of the different predominant sections of the reformed faith. Hence we everywhere find that Protestant ministry is based on the old maxims and principles of the antecedent creed. These maxims and principles may indeed be modified, and reduced in intensity, but as the papal system had brought to perfection the mystery of amalgamating the church and the world, the new possessors of power, whose object it was to be proficients in the same mystery, could not do otherwise than study the successful methods of their predecessor.
But in this forbidden science, the Protestants seem to forget that the old masters can always obtain an easy victory over all co-rivals; for in the matter of ministry, wherever it is of human institution, Popery has the means of surpassing all antagonists, and of confounding all opponents. It is owing to the superior claims of the papal priesthood to the obedience of man, on earthly principles, that Popery is now once more disturbing the repose of Protestants, and threatening some great crisis in ecclesiastical history.
In "ministry," as a human institution, Popery possesses incomparable advantages; for who does not see that even the ordinations of the dissenters come from Rome through the Church of England, and that the idea of requiring a clerical body to convey the power of "administering the sacraments" (an idea fully recognized by Protestants), is easily to be traced to the decrees of the canonists?
The Church of England smiles with disdain on the imitation of clerisy by the dissenters, and haughtily denies the validity of their ordinations; but the Church of Rome, enthroned in the magnificent deceptions of many ages, and unrivaled in the perfection of every earthly principle, classes the Anglican prelate with the dissenting minister, sees no difference between the preacher of the conventicle and the archbishop of Canterbury, and in the comprehensive category of "heretic," erases all Protestant ministers of every grade out of the clerical order. And, indeed, if it be a question between the comparative merits of any particular clerisy, if the genus "clergyman" be once admitted in Christianity, who would not naturally prefer the type of the whole family to any of the imperfect and mongrel varieties which could be put in competition with it?
When once, therefore, an inquirer is directed to rest on human ministry, and when he comes to discover that the priestly college, the priestly education, holy orders, the distinction of clergy from laity, the clerical character, title, and costume, the clerical right to preach and administer the sacraments, and the clerical prerogative of conveying that right, are to be had at the fountain-head at Rome--that from Rome all these things were derived, and that at Rome they all flourish in native splendor, inimitable in any other communion--he must naturally incline to go direct to the fountain-head for that which he had been falsely taught is a part of Christianity. Neither can we doubt that Popery is triumphing now through this obvious process of thought; for I profess not to understand how, admitting the clerical character and prerogatives obtainable by clerical ordination, it is possible to rest content with the imperfect and borrowed orders of the Church of England. "If there is a link out of [R1129 : page 7] the chain, it seems to matter very little whether it is wanting at one end or the other," the Anglican priest remarks, in commenting on the "orders" of the dissenters, forgetting that he is himself a dissenter from the mother church, and that it belongs to that church alone to use such a reproof, which is applicable to every Protestant that tampers with "the apostolical succession."
As, then, preaching justification by faith without works, that is, asserting that he who does not work, but instead of working believes in that God who justifies ungodly persons, is the only method of meeting Rome in her doctrinal power, so the assertion of liberty of ministry for all believers is the only method of meeting Rome's pretensions to clerical pre-eminence, a pretension before which all must succumb who in any way acknowledge the clerical order. There is no medium, no resting-place for a candid inquirer between the two extremes--the ministry of the Spirit as revealed in the Word of God, or human ministry as exhibited by the ancient Church of Rome. Either take liberty of ministry for all the saints, from the supernal and free Jerusalem, "the mother of us all;" or, rejecting this, then accept the clerical order from Rome, the mother of all clerisy, and the mistress of all ecclesiastical bondsmen.
Let not these remarks, however, be interpreted as belonging to the controversy between the Roman Catholics and the Protestants. That controversy enters not, I trust, into any part of this inquiry, which, as it professes to be an examination of the Scriptures, for the purpose of vindicating certain Scriptural truths of deep value to the Church of God, can only incidentally touch on the divisions of professing Christendom. In vain will we seek for either Papist or Protestant in the New Testament, or for their churches under any name, or any representation.
In God's Word we find only two antagonistic sects: that of the world and that of grace; known also by the names of the children of the devil and the children of God; of the sons of darkness and the sons of light; the body of Christ and the children of wrath. But wherever we find the principles of this world admitted into any system of professing Christianity, there we find a portion of that which is technically called "Popery;" and which is nothing but the fulness of this world's principles, and the entire satisfaction of all the desires of the carnal mind in its notions about religion. Now, with the Church of England and the dissenters, there is much of the elements of this world: much that proves that their citizenship is not, and that they do not wish it to be, in heavenly places. They are [R1130 : page 7] marshaled under opposing banners for an earthly portion; they both teach that politics should be "cultivated religiously;" and they both give the whole weight of their influence to the political parties of the day; nay, to such an extent is this rivalry carried on, that their very places of worship are rearing as if they were fortresses and castles for a civil war. "It seems to be the present policy of the Church of England to build us down and build us out," says one of the antagonists; "but we must catch the building spirit of the age; we must build, build, build. This should be our cry, MORE PLACES OF WORSHIP. It may be well enough to form protective societies for the defence of our civil rights; but our best defence, under God, is in our numbers; numbers carry weight and influence. We cannot multiply our persons, unless we multiply our places. We must not wait for congregations to be gathered before we build; we must build to gather."
In the meanwhile, on these very principles, the common enemy of all the Protestant sects is advancing with a rapidity that alarms them all; and he who, ages ago, had the whole earthly portion, for parts of which others are now contending, is reviving his claim and taking active measures to recover it.
"I claim to retain the favor of the state," says the church; "I claim an equality in all rights of earthly citizenship," says the dissenter; but the imperial priest of the seven hills cries out, "I claim dominion over all the works of God's hands; all things are put under my feet; all sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field, the fowls of the air, and the fishes of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the sea; for of me it is written, 'Behold, I have set thee over nations, and over kingdoms, to root out and to pull down, to destroy and to throw down, to build and to plant."*
*So applied by the canonists, and so quoted by Pope Boniface VIII., Extrav. C. "unam sanctum."
It is not then for Protestants that we write but for the "holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling," who desire to be acquainted with the will of God, whatever may be the consequences. One consequence, indeed, is certain, that if these things be true, then does Christianity stand before the world acquitted of the charges brought against it by its restless enemies, who, viewing it only in its clerical form, condemn it, both for what it has done, and for what it has failed to do.
When Gibbon lays it down as an axiom, "that the Christian Church entrusted the service of the altar to a perpetual succession of consecrated ministers; and that bishops alone possessed the power of spiritual generation" (Decline and Fall, chap. xx.) he asserts that which all his Christian antagonists have allowed to pass unnoticed and uncontradicted; but grant him only this hypothesis, and who then shall be able to gainsay his history, which indeed has hitherto been more railed at than confuted? Gibbon has incidentally written a history of clerical Christianity in tracing the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, and that form of Christianity it has never been proved that he has misrepresented; but if we deny that clerisy is an authentic part of Christianity, and if we establish this position by a close inquiry into the Scriptures, then we ascertain that neither he nor any other infidel has ever yet been able even to find the true Church, which has fled into the wilderness far out of their reach, where, being reputed dead, and having her "life hid with Christ in God," she has found for herself "a fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon." They that know this life will not evade any truth of the Word of God, whatever may be its tendency; for they know full well that most of the truths of Christ are attended with His cross, and to the world must ever appear unconvincing and unamiable; but, as their citizenship is in heaven, so will they not, as others do, be looking to this earth as a place of power, influence and honor for the Church, but rather remembering the great question, "When the Son of man cometh, will he find faith upon the earth?" they will anticipate suffering times, and days of painful testimony, "until the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together;" and so, suffering with him, that with him they may also reign, their present position will be unhesitating obedience, though the daily desire of their hearts will be, "Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a roe, or to a young hart upon the mountains of spices."
It should be understood that the word "denomination," which will occasionally appear in following our Inquiry Concerning Christian Ministry, [in subsequent issues of the TOWER,] is used for the sake of peace, and to avoid the appearance of criminatory language; for if, in detecting error, crimination is inevitable, it is better that it should be by facts than by pointed expressions, and by proofs than by contentious phrases. Nevertheless "denomination" is only a veil for that harsher word "sect," though even that is a softened translation of the original.+
+That word is heresy (airesis). "As concerning this sect [i.e. heresy] we know that it is everywhere spoken against." (Acts 28:22.) So Acts 5:17; 15:5; 26:5. In all these instances heresy is translated sect. But in 1 Cor. 11:19 we read, "There must be also heresies amongst you," or if we choose, sects, or denominations, "for one saith, I am of Paul, and another of Apollos." (1 Cor. 3:4.) Then again, Gal. 5:20. "The works of the flesh are manifest, which are these, adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulation, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies"--or sects or denominations.
"Denomination" is a specious word invented by Shame to conceal the nakedness of the fall of Christendom: that which erring and bewildered Christians call denomination is in the Scriptures SCHISM, for so it is in the word, "I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that ye all speak the same thing, that there be no schisms [see the Greek] among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1 Cor. 1:10 and 12:25); for in the Scriptures believers are represented not only as being one body and one spirit, but as having a perfect unity of mind and judgment; so that whatever we may now hear concerning "denominations" (that is, sects and schisms), and however these divisions may now be applauded and admired, and how much it may have become a fashionable virtue to speak well of them all; yet this is certain, that if there be any truth in the Word of God, every sect is a sin, and every division a proof of disobedience.
"THERE IS ONE BODY," is a truth in the Word of God. (Eph. 4:4.) The faith once delivered to the saints was mainly to establish this fact, the whole of the New Testament tends to confirm it, and visible Christianity utterly fails to represent the true Christian faith where this fact is not both in practice and in theory fully acknowledged. I can, at present, only allude to this subject in passing, for it is of itself a theme for a wide and serious inquiry, but so much is here said on it, lest any believer, rightly instructed in the word of truth, should be offended with the usage of a word, which was originally intended to hide sin. To speak of "various denominations" is, after all, but saying that there are various schisms, for Christ and his Church have but one name (1 Cor. 12:12), one body (Eph. 5:29,30), and one spirit (1 Cor. 6:17); and therefore to give Christ the name of Roman Catholic, Churchman, Presbyterian, Independent, Baptist, Wesleyan, or any other sectarian name, and to admire this many-headed portent as "his body," the Church, is as intolerable as to call our Lord by the names of Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva, or to look for the body of his disciples among the sects of Athenian philosophy. It is one thing to love all God's children though entangled in sects, and another to avoid the meshes of their captivity. The oneness of thought, mind and action, required of the Church of God, may be seen in the following texts: --John 13:34,35; 17:23; Acts 4:32; 20:29,30; Rom. 12:16; 15:5,6; 16:17; 1 Cor. 1:10; 12:25; 2 Cor. 13:11; Gal. 1:9; Eph. 4:14; Phil. 2:2,3; 3:16,17; 1 Thes. 5:13; 2 Thes. 3:6; 1 Tim. 1:3-6; 6:3,20; 2 Tim. 4:3,4; 2 John 9.
R. M. BEVERLEY.
THE ANATOMY OF CONCEIT.
Every man sees with his own eyes. He discovers in the world only what his capacity and range of vision fit him to see. So every man thinks and judges and estimates other men and himself according to standards and limitations peculiar to his own mind. The eye of the soul has its limit of vision. Many a man has no right estimate of his fellow men, because he measures them by the false standards of his own thinking. Still more men have no right estimate of themselves. Wrong estimates of others and of ourselves are sure to be found together sooner or later; they spring from the same root, namely, a bad standard or a false application of good standards. In this way a man may either underestimate or overestimate himself. Thus arises conceit. This quality is simply erroneous self-measurement.
Conceit implies a narrow and superficial knowledge of the world. As in perception we determine the size of things by comparison of them with other things, so we estimate men and ourselves by comparison. The earth seems very great to us when we cross its oceans and traverse its continents. But when we pursue the astronomer's reasoning, and learn that there are worlds in comparison with which our planet is little more than a floating particle of dust, our estimate of its relative size and importance is wholly changed. A better knowledge of the universe humbles our judgment concerning our world as a part of the creation of God. In like manner, all self-estimates are relative. In self-conceit, man dwarfs the universe in order to magnify himself. With a true conception of the majesty of the universe, and of the wisdom and power revealed in it, conceit is impossible. The mind is overwhelmed with the impression of its weakness in the presence of that gigantic system of things in which it finds itself.
It follows that conceit springs from ignorance and thoughtlessness. It is consistent only with narrow views of the world and of life. It makes precisely the mistake of the old astronomy, which supposed our world to be the central and largest one of the system, simply because it knew so little of other worlds. The conceited man magnifies his own importance only because he does not know what real greatness is. He is great in his own eyes only because his eyes can see nothing truly great.
Conceit arises from a low estimate of other men. Estimates of ourselves, as well as of other men, are relative. All self-measurements involve measurement of others. It results from this, that there is no way by which the conceit can be taken out of a man so effectually as by bringing him into a clear comparison and sharp competition with other men. This is the reason why it has become proverbial that school-life--especially college-life--will be likely to cure boys and young men of their conceit. In the class-room they are brought into close competition, in which even the best scholar is sure to be sometimes outdone by other men. Thus every man is frequently compelled to a tacit acknowledgement of others' superiority, and that in their very presence. This kind of life forbids to men the easy and flattering method of "comparing themselves with themselves," which is the great promoter of conceit.
This is the reason why the process of education tends to cure conceit. The men who recover from it least, are the men who have too little perception to discover clearly, or too little sensitiveness to feel keenly, the superiority of others. The same principle holds in the great school of life. No man can remain persistently conceited, who has any adequate appreciation of the merits and attainments of his fellow-men. A man may be conscious that he has done his best, and may feel a keen satisfaction in this fact; but any large knowledge of men will show him how often his work has been equaled and surpassed. The real scholar is compelled to think modestly of his productions; for he well knows how thorough and successful have been the labors of others in the same or similar fields. He who is most likely to suppose that he has done a great service to science, is the tyro who does not know what others have accomplished.
We estimate ourselves by comparison. The more widely and truly we know men, the more we shall see we are frequently equaled and surpassed. Candid estimates of ourselves by comparison with others will make us think soberly, and judge ourselves modestly. Conceit has no more fruitful root than a narrow knowledge and prejudiced estimate of the labors and worth of others.
Conceit involves a faulty self-knowledge. It is noticeable that a man who thinks most highly of himself is one of whom others think least highly. The conceited man has only one ardent admirer --that is himself. The world knows most men better than men know themselves, and at this point "this wise world is mainly right." A true self-knowledge reveals our faults to us, and gives us a true view of ourselves. It lets the light in upon our narrow prejudices, and makes us ashamed of them. It discloses the insufficient grounds of many of our judgments, and unearths the subtle processes of our self-deception. It lays bare the operation of motives, and shows how often conscience itself is made a convenience. Self-knowledge humbles a man. Those who think themselves complete beyond other men commonly stand alone in that opinion. They think themselves complete only because, while they keenly perceive others' faults, they are blind to their own.
In this view lies almost the only excuse which can be given for the man of inordinate self-conceit. It implies intellectual weakness, an incapacity for keen discernment, an inability to study successfully one's self and others. It may be a mental quite as much as a moral fault, though it is usually both. In both views it is a quality whose development is to be dreaded and checked with the utmost promptness and sternness. No trait of character conveys a more unfavorable impression; none so quickly excites disgust; none provokes such constant and universal ridicule. The ancient proverb expresses the world's verdict on this point: "Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? There is more hope of a fool than of him."
Conceit is a mark of smallness of soul. It is a phase of selfishness. Conceit is essential littleness. It means small thoughts of the world and of other men; low ideals of character and attainment; weak and narrow conceptions of duty. It is the mark of a self-centered life; and the life which makes self the center is as much smaller than the true life as the idea which made our earth the center of the universe was beneath the true conception of the solar system. "Conceit, in weakest bodies strongest works," said Shakespeare. The men who have been servants of humanity-- the great reformers and philanthropists-- have been freest from conceit. They were great in humility; for humility, rightly understood, is essential greatness. Humility is the quality which leads men to serve others; conceit, the quality which leads them to serve themselves.
Traced to its deepest root, therefore, conceit is a fruit of fundamentally defective character. It implies a lack of appreciation of God's greatness, before which every thoughtful mind should stand with reverence and humility, and the proofs of which in the world, in man, and in history, might well impress every person with his own feebleness and insignificance. It implies a want of generous sympathy and kindly appreciation of others. It gives rise to cynicism and misanthropy. The conceited man helps nobody, unless he does it in order that he may thereby indirectly help himself. He is as intolerant of other men's faults as he is tolerant of his own.
Like all other qualities, conceit grows by indulgence. It is as subtile as counterfeit virtue, with which it has close affinity. It is as mischievous as self-deception, of whose essence it partakes. The analysis of this trait lays bare its inherent meanness, and shows it to belong to a type of life which is unworthy of any noble, generous, aspiring soul.--Sunday School Times.
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