ZION'S WATCH TOWER AND HERALD OF CHRIST'S PRESENCE.
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"GO LABOR ON: SPEND AND BE SPENT."
Two have written that they feel discouraged because unable to do labor in the harvest field as colporteurs. They seem to feel that if not colporteurs they are not overcomers. This is a serious mistake; and since others may feel similarly, we reply publicly, although we have stated the same things in substance in previous TOWERS.
While the colporteur work is one of the best means of serving the truth, it is by no means the only one. If you have not the needful strength for travel, or if you have a large family dependent on you for support, or if you have not the gifts necessary to success in that work, you may know that it is not your work. Then look about you, while you pray the Lord to show you what you can do--most to his praise, most in the service of his truth, most to the blessing of his people.
However humble your talents may be, rest assured they will be accepted if presented in the name and merit and love of Christ. But be assured that you have at least one talent, else you would not have been granted an acquaintance with the truth. Be assured, too, that whatever the number of your talents, they must be used--must not be buried in pleasure or business or work of an earthly, selfish sort. If you do not use your talents (whatever they may be), it will be a proof of your lack of love, and hence a proof of your unworthiness to be one of the Lord's "little flock," all of whom will be so full of love for him and his that to sacrifice earthly good things in his service will be a part of their chiefest joy. And surely these are objects to draw upon our love and service, always and everywhere;--the Church of Christ in general, excepting only the "goats" and "wolves," are fainting for the true bread and the true water of life--truth. Under such conditions, while God's children are striving for what we can give, to be idle or pleasure-seeking would be almost criminal,--surely loveless.
So, then, if you cannot do one thing, be all the more diligent to do another. Tracts can be distributed, and it needs just such as yourself to hand them out effectively with perhaps "a word in season," in the evenings, or on Sundays,--in the cars, in the hotels and on the street corners. The brethren and sisters in Cleveland have distributed thirty-five thousand (35,000) tracts during the past month, and the results are showing favorably. Turn to your TOWER for May last and read again our suggestions-- "Fervent in spirit, serving the Lord."-- Page 140.
ALLEGHENY CHURCH MEETINGS.
Our meetings are held in Bible House Chapel, Arch st., Allegheny, Pa. Readers and friends will be warmly welcomed. Preaching every Sunday at 3:30 P.M.
"Watchman, What of the Night?" "The Morning Cometh, and a Night also!" Isaiah 21:11
VOL. XV. AUGUST 1, 1894. NO. 15. IS DEATH A PENALTY OR A CONSEQUENCE?
WE are requested to harmonize the statement of 1 Cor. 15:56, "The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law," with the statement of Heb. 2:14, "Him that hath the power of death, that is the devil." And the further question is asked,--"Are we to consider death a penalty for the infraction of the divine law, or as a natural result of disease contracted by disobedience to the divine commands?"
We will answer the question first, and then consider the harmony of the Scriptures cited.
We may properly consider death from both of these standpoints: it does not come now as an individual sentence from God, a penalty for personal disobedience; for not only do criminals and malicious persons die, but also saints and prattling babes: it is now a result of disease inherited and transmitted from one generation to another, under generally prevailing conditions. But, looking back to Eden, we can see that matters were different there: disease was unknown until, as an element of death, it was incurred, not from the eating of some poisonous substance in the fruit of the forbidden tree (for all the trees of the garden were trees of life), but as the curse or penalty for transgressing the divine law. That the penalty did not come as the result of a poison from the tree is evident, and that God specially forced Adam and Eve into conditions productive of disease and death is also evident from the record,--that God drove them out of the garden and away from the trees (literally, grove or orchard) of life into the unfit wilderness, outside the prepared garden, where, lacking suitable sustenance, gradually dying, they died.
The proper view of the question then is this. Adam, created in God's moral likeness and surrounded by his favors, transgressed his Creator's law knowingly, and without any just provocation, and suffered the penalty of his transgression --death. But, as he died slowly, he begat children who, although not put on trial as he had been, and hence not sentenced by God as Adam was, died nevertheless, because they had inherited from Adam a diseased or dying organism. And thus it has been ever since, and is now. As the Apostle declares, it was "by one man's disobedience [that] sin entered the world, and death as a result of sin. As all inherit sinful weaknesses and tendencies through Adam, so they also inherit death, the penalty of sin, through him. A father can bequeath to his children no rights, privileges or conditions that he does not possess at the time of their conception.
Coming now to the Scriptures cited, we remark that, so far from being in conflict, these passages corroborate and expound each other. Sin is the poisonous sting which has blighted and killed our race. Not that the sin committed (the fruit eaten) would of itself have had this effect: the strength or power to kill lay not in the fruit,--"the strength [or power] of sin was the law," whose vengeance or penalty the sin brought upon the sinner. And Satan, the tempter, by starting sin amongst men, brought all under the sentence of divine law,-- under the power of death. And since he is the [R1683 : page 244] father of sin, and thus of sinners, the power or strength or weight of sin may be said to be his power or influence. And Satan's power of death continues steadily; for, by reason of man's weakness, through the fall, Satan can the more easily delude and beguile into deeper degradation; and thus by the increase of the disease of sin the power of death increases, swallowing up the human family more and more rapidly.
But in a still more particular way Satan has the power of death. When God had created man in his own image, with the divine law interwoven as a part of his being and nature, he made him ruler or king over earth, as his representative, and left matters in that way to take their course: as the Scriptures express it, God "rested from all his work." He did not interfere, even when man by reason of sin, disease and death became incapable of properly ruling the empire committed to his care. God had foreseen that man, in the abuse of his liberty, would become a servant of sin and Satan, and that in consequence not only man himself, and the lower animals, would suffer from lack of proper discipline and direction, but that the entire course of nature would become deranged; --and God arranged his plans accordingly;-- to let men and angels see to the full the result of disobedience, and then, in due time, still "resting" so far as personal influence is concerned, to raise up Christ, who, first as Redeemer of "that which was lost," and during the Millennial reign as Restorer of all the willingly obedient, should bring order out of the chaos of sin and death which Satan's power would effect.
What powers of mind and body the first man enjoyed, at the time God created him in his own image and pronounced him "very good," we cannot well judge by looking at the generally degraded race,--whose fall to such depths of ignorance, misery and depravity St. Paul explains in Rom. 1:18,21-29. Even the most intelligent of the human species give but a slight conception of what human perfection would be, --in the image and likeness of God and "very good" in his estimation;--for we know that even the best at present are accounted of God acceptable only through the atonement made by the death of his Son as our ransom-price.
Even the prodigies of manhood sometimes encountered,--musical prodigies, poetic prodigies, mathematical prodigies, oratorical prodigies, memorizing prodigies, mind-reading and mesmeric prodigies, who can exercise a mental power over the brute creation as well as amongst men;--none of these, nor even all of these brilliant powers if imagined as belonging to one person, can give us a correct concept of the perfect man, as he was before sin marred the likeness of God in him, and as he will be after all the traces of sin have been blotted out by the Great Physician, who, during the "times of restitution" (Acts 3:19-21), will restore all that "was lost" (Luke 19:10), to all who will receive it upon God's terms,--the New Covenant.
We think it reasonable to conclude that as the length of human life was greatly shortened, evidently by the changed physical conditions of the earth, after the Deluge, so his mentality suffered correspondingly at the same time, and from the same causes. And all that we know of man, aside from the meager records of Genesis, belongs to this period of his degradation [R1684 : page 244] since that flood. The great down-pour of waters from the North pole, with its glaciers which cut great valleys, which can still be traced in the hills, evidently swept into the ocean, and into oblivion, all that would have been to us evidences of the wisdom and skill of our race as exercised before the flood of Noah's day--not only noted in Genesis, but confirmed by our Lord and the apostles, as well as by the most ancient histories of various ancient peoples. Yet even the ruins of Syria and Egypt impress us with the ability and knowledge and skill of the race, a thousand years after the deluge. We fain would know the secret of some of their "lost arts," even in this boasted nineteenth century.
SATAN'S USURPATION OF MAN'S EMPIRE.
But what has all this to do with Satan and his power of death? Very much. It is the period since the deluge that in Scripture is termed, "this present evil world [--or the present epoch of disaster and trouble]." (See Gal. 1:4; compare 2 Pet. 3:6,7.) And it is of "this present evil world," or this disastrous epoch and condition, that Satan is declared to [R1684 : page 245] be the prince or ruler. He is the ruler or "prince of this world," as Christ is to be the ruler and prince of peace and blessings in "the world to come."
As Christ, the Prince of Peace, will bring in everlasting righteousness and blessing, by restoring all things to proper order, and subjection to the divine will and arrangement, it is but reasonable to suppose that Satan has had much to do with bringing about the disorder, evils and calamities of "this present evil world;" --by the misuse of knowledge and powers, in a spirit of devilishness.
Satan, the prince of this present evil world, or epoch of trouble, is also "the prince of the power of the air" (Eph. 2:2), both the literal and the symbolic air. He is the prince of earth's religious systems, sometimes in symbol represented by the "heavens" or the "air" powers. They all, from fetish and devil worship, up through the various heathen philosophies or religions, show signs of his supervision in their formation. He recognizes man's native religious tendencies, and by partially satisfying them prevents, as far as possible, escape from his slavery into the liberty of sons of God, wherewith the gospel of Christ would make all free from his bondage under ignorance, superstition, sin and death. The Apostle refers to this policy on Satan's part, saying,--"The God of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not [by supplying them with false religions], lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ ...should shine unto them."--2 Cor. 4:4.
Not only does Satan rule thus in false, heathen religions, but amongst Christian believers also he is a prince or ruler to a far greater extent than is supposed; for in proportion as the minds of men become enlightened, by glimpses of the divine character and plan revealed in the gospel of Christ, Satan is on the alert to mislead them with vain philosophies and sciences falsely so called; and equally ready to give visions of heaven and hell and mixed interpretations of Scripture, to a Swedenborg, or to lead the new school of thought in the theory of evolution, to the discarding of the Bible as a relic of barbarism and ignorance --or to speak through Spiritualist mediums, and personate the dead and mislead the living,-- or to lead the Mormons to a peculiar interpretation of Scripture to their own blinding,--or to open schools of Christian Science and Theosophy, and do wonderful works in the name of a Christ of their own theory, but not in the name of Jesus, the Christ of God and the Redeemer of men,--or to mislead others, who have gotten their eyes wide open, into the belief that all men will be saved everlastingly, and that they did not fall, and therefore needed no ransom, and that Christ was merely a good example, and that men are blest and brought nigh to God not "by the blood of the cross," but by the figurative blood of the sinner's sins, killed or destroyed by himself.
Thus, as an "angel of light," clothed in light, Satan shows himself to those who have caught glimpses of the great Light, the true Light, the Light of Life, that yet shall enlighten "every man that cometh into the world." What wonder that many are fearful of the light, and love rather the fancied security of the dark past, and of unreason. But to thus frighten some away from the light of present truth serves Satan's purposes just as well as to ensnare and mislead by his glaring, false lights. Truly, the only safe condition for any who would be true "sheep" is to be intimately acquainted with the true Shepherd--his spirit and his word. "My sheep hear my voice, and they follow me. A stranger they will not follow, for they know not the voice of strangers."
Thus seen, Satan is indeed the prince of the air, the present heavens--ecclesiasticism, both heathen and nominal Christian--and only the Lord's "little flock" are kept, so that the "wicked one toucheth them not."--1 John 5:18.
But in another sense Satan is prince of the air power,--literally. When Job was given into his hand to be tried, he manifested his power of death. He caused fire to fall from heaven (probably a bolt of lightning), and destroyed several of Job's servants and his sheep. He caused a great wind (a cyclone or tornado) to come upon Job's house, and thus killed Job's sons and daughters.
Satan's object evidently was, to make Job suppose that God caused those calamities, and to thus cause Job to feel bitter and resentful [R1684 : page 246] against God, and to "curse God and die;" or to shake his faith in there being any God. Indeed, that such was Satan's object is implied in the narrative; and Job's friends, although God-fearing men, were deceived into this view, and tried for days to convince Job that his afflictions were the work of the Lord. But of Job it is written, "In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly [with being the author of his calamities.]"--Job 1:22.
Again, notice that when our Lord and his disciples were in the little boat on the Sea of Galilee, and our Lord asleep, a storm suddenly arose, which palled the hearts of those old and expert fishermen accustomed to storms, until they awakened the Master, saying, Lord, save us; we perish! We cannot presume that, if the Heavenly Father had willed or caused that storm, our Lord Jesus would have commanded it to subside, or that it would have obeyed him. On the contrary, rather, we may suppose that the same Satan who used his power against Job's household sought to destroy the Lord and the infant Church. But that Satan had no power over the life of Christ, until "his hour was come," is evident from our Lord's words upon this occasion --"O ye of little faith, why are ye fearful?"
We would not be understood to question God's ability to cause storms, cyclones, etc.; but from our Lord's teachings we know that such would not be his spirit: for when the disciples were incensed against the Samaritans who did not welcome the Redeemer and asked, "Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" our Lord's answer was, "Ye know not what spirit ye are of [--your spirit is not mine, nor the Father's]."
Remembering the Deluge and the destruction of Sodom, we can only understand, in the light of the account in Job, that God may at times use storms and fires as his servants to execute his decrees against the wicked; or that Satan is ever ready as an executioner, taking pleasure in evil, to destroy life whenever permitted to do so.
In thinking of how Satan has the power of death, let us not forget that in healing the diseases of the people, at his first advent, our Lord expressly stated that they were "afflicted of [or by] the devil." If God had directly caused the diseases, our Redeemer in healing the sick would have been opposing the Father, and not doing his will. Since disease is death at work, devouring the sick, to have the power of disease is to have the power of death.
Satan is permitted to have such a power of disease and death because of sin;--because men are under the divine and just sentence of death, as culprits. The Scriptures represent that mankind has sold itself under Sin and death, and to him that has this power, Satan. The Church-- all truly consecrated and faithful believers--are reckoned as having escaped from the condemnation of the world and from the power and dominion of its prince, so that he toucheth them not, or has no power over them,--so long as they abide in Christ. Such, the Redeemer makes free from the law of sin and death and from the power of Satan. And although they die, their death is in no sense under Satan's power;--as Job's was not and as our Lord's was not. Their death is separate from that of the world, and is not even counted as being a share in the Adamic death, but, as though having been lifted out of that condemnation, and out of that death, over which Satan has power, theirs is reckoned to be a sacrificial death;--a part and share of Christ's death; "dead with him," and not with Adam.
But "the whole world lieth under [control of] the Wicked One," Satan (1 John 5:19), and over them he has "the power of death"--including disease--subject no doubt to some divine regulations; but just what his limitations are we may not clearly distinguish. But he can have no power over God's people, except by special divine permission; and in such cases the Lord stands pledged to his own, that all things which he permits will work for their ultimate advantage, if they abide faithful to their covenant with him in Christ.Our life, our friends, our soul, we leave[R1685 : page 247]
Entirely to thy care.
"Our times are in thy hand,
Whatever they may be;
Pleasing or painful, dark or bright,
As best may seem to thee.
"Our times are in thy hand;
Why have we doubts or fears?
Our Father's hand will never cause
His children needless tears."
SATAN'S KNOWLEDGE AND POWER INCREASING.
The foregoing being true, it seems more than possible, yes, probable, that Satan's power for evil and death finds exercise in the development of new diseases which for a time successfully baffle the skill of all except Satan's own physicians, --Christian Scientists, etc. Medical science has within recent years reached the conclusion that the majority of infectious diseases are the result of poisoning communicated sometimes through the air, and sometimes through the food, in the form of animal life, so small as to be indistinguishable except with powerful microscopes;--long-shaped, it would require nine thousand laid lengthwise to equal an inch. These disease-producing little animals breed by the millions in a few hours, carrying disease wherever they go, and are known as Bacteria.
The same principles apply to the numerous insects, worms and beetles which plague the farmers: new ones are continually appearing.
Knowing that God is resting from his creative work, since the creation of man, we are bound to attribute these new creations to some other source. Satan is wise, and no doubt merely takes advantage of natural laws in the propagation of the evils mentioned; and no doubt if mankind possessed the powers with which his Creator endowed him, when he gave him dominion over every creature, he would have equal knowledge of the laws governing the start and propagation of bacteria, and could use his knowledge and powers to prevent such formations or to destroy them. But man is fallen, and has "lost" (Luke 19:10) much that he once possessed: Satan is now his master and prince; he "now worketh in the children of disobedience;" under his misrule "the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together." Eph. 2:2; Rom. 8:19-23; 1 John 5:19, Diaglott.
Illustrations of this power to create, or rather to take advantage of laws of nature to cause rapid propagation amongst, lower forms of life, are found in the course of Moses and Aaron, and Jannes and Jambres their opponents, before the court of Egypt. Under divine direction God's servants produced myriads of frogs, lice, flies, etc., turned the river of Egypt to corruption, caused disease amongst the cattle and a severe hail and lightning storm, which did great damage. These we are told were judgments; but the point we now make is that these were evidently brought about under some natural laws, because God has been resting from creative work and will continue so to do until the close of the Millennium;--leaving all the restitution work for Christ to do. "The Father worketh hitherto, and [now] I work."--Compare John 5:17; Heb. 4:4,5,10.
Not only so, but Jannes and Jambres, as Satan's representatives, were able to duplicate many of the plagues; certainly not by special divine power,--evidently under Satan's knowledge of natural laws.--Exod. 7:11,12,22; 8:7.
We may safely assume that Satan's object in using his "power of death" over his subjects is not merely to gratify a fiendish delight in their sufferings; quite probably his special object is to oppose the true light, which is now more and more breaking over the world as the Sun of Righteousness rises into place and influence. He is still striving to prevent the light of the knowledge of the goodness of God from shining into men's hearts and chasing away the dark shadows of doubt and fear which he has deeply engraved thereon for centuries by "doctrines of devils,"--by which he has made God to appear as mercilessly cruel, unjust and unkind, and the author of evil,--calamities, diseases, plagues, storms, etc.
Satan may think that he is unrestrainable, but we know that "all power in heaven and in earth" was given unto Christ, when, having finished his course, he was raised from death by the Father's power, and highly exalted.
God's foreknowledge saw that if opportunity were granted to the dead and dying members of Adam's sinful race, to return to righteousness and to harmony with God as his children, some would accept it; and for this foreseen class the great work of atonement was undertaken; [R1685 : page 248] --in order to deliver these prophetically seen "children" from the power of sin and Satan and death. But willing to prove to his creatures that he is no respecter of persons, and that his dealings are equitable, God adopted a plan of atonement which would open the door to his favor, not to his foreseen "children" only, but to all who died in Adam--"to every creature under heaven." Hence, the sacrifice of Christ, while it will benefit only those who become "children" of God, was not for our sins only, but also for the whole world. Accordingly we read,
"Forasmuch as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death [as their substitute or ransom-price before God's law] he might [legally] destroy him that has the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage."--Heb. 2:14,15.
By that ransom which he gave, by which God's sentence against the sinner-race was legally met and paid, once for all, our Lord became the owner of the race which had by sin sold itself to Satan and came under his control, --but without any divine sanction of the transaction. Christ, the legal purchaser, now holds the destinies of all men. His purpose, as he explains it, is the very reverse of Satan's policy. He will set men free to act for themselves, by increasing their knowledge,--opening the sin-blinded eyes of all, to see the goodness and love and justice of God. Those who then choose righteousness he will bless and help and heal,--restoring them to the perfection lost through Adam. Those who will not hear, obey, after the knowledge of the Lord fills the whole earth, will he cut off from among the people-- in the second death. Then Satan, too, he that for six thousand years has had the power of death and exercised it so relentlessly, shall be destroyed.--Acts 3:22,23.
The permission of Satan's policy and power as "prince of this world," since the ransom-price was paid, and since all power over men passed legally into the hands of Christ, is not from lack of power to destroy Satan and release his blinded slaves, nor from lack of loving sympathy and interest in them, but because God's due time for this world (age) to end, and for the world (age) to come to begin, has not arrived; and all of God's dealings are upon lines of strictest order. God's plan provided a work for Christ to do before the setting up of his Kingdom, and the taking to himself of his great power and beginning his reign. (Rev. 11:17.) That work was the selection of a faithful "little flock" of joint-heirs--"the bride, the Lamb's wife." (Acts 15:14-17.) The Gospel age was needful for the call, selection and discipline of this class; and its work will very shortly be completed.
At the close of this Gospel age, and the introduction of the Millennial age, our Lord in wisdom has purposed a great time of trouble, which shall not only be a just recompense upon the world for sins against light and opportunity, but also a time of breaking up present imperfect institutions preparatory to the better ones of Christ's Kingdom; and the breaking of the hard hearts of the ungodly--plowing and harrowing them, and getting ready many (we trust) for the good seed of righteousness, which the glorified Church will sow unsparingly during the Millennium.
As a part of that coming trouble, "such as was not since there was a nation," in addition to its financial and social and political and religious features, we believe that Satan's "power of death" will be permitted to a remarkable degree--increasingly and along the lines already indicated--storms, hail, drouths, pests, disease-germs and diseases. Building upon the false doctrines he has already inculcated, he will be zealous in the exercise of his power of death, that thus to some he may represent God as a being of devilish disposition, while to others the effect may be to destroy all faith in a divine power. For none, except as instructed out of the Scriptures respecting the cause and object of the permission of evil,--calamities, etc.,-- could suppose any reason why God should either inflict such calamities or permit them to come upon men from other causes.
And Satan's power of death makes quite possible his relief from sickness, etc., through agencies of his choice,--for the purpose of enforcing their false teachings. This deception will, we believe, be employed by him more and [R1685 : page 249] more in the future, and constitute part of the "strong delusion" which would, "if it were possible, deceive the very elect." But their deception will not be possible; because the true "sheep" know their Shepherd's voice, and flee from other teachers. This is another sign of Satan's desperation, and indicates the near approach of the dissolution of his kingdom and power of death. So says our Lord, in Matt. 12:25,26.
Satan, no doubt is permitted to gain increasing knowledge since 1799 just as with men: and no doubt like them he takes the credit to himself, and supposes that he is daily growing wiser; and that through his wisdom he has a greater "power of death." Christ, the new King, according [R1686 : page 249] to the Scriptures will permit Satan to use his knowledge and powers increasingly, and thus cause the wrath of Satan to praise him, and to work out features of his plan; as he so often has done with the wrath of man.
All who have "escaped" from under this prince of evil should be earnest in helping others out of his bondage--fully, completely-- and into the service of the prince of life and peace and joy everlasting. Oh! what a comfort to know that, although we wrestle not with flesh and blood, but with wicked spirits of exalted influence and power (Eph. 6:12), yet one is on our side, the Prince of Light, against whom the Prince of Darkness cannot prevail. How restful to realize that all things are ours, because we are Christ's, and Christ is God's; and that all things shall work together for good to us, because we love God and are called and have responded, according to his promise.
"THE PRINCE OF THIS WORLD."
"The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me."--John 14:30.OUR Lord's reference here is to the great adversary of God and deceiver of men who for six thousand years past has pursued a course of systematic opposition to, and defiance of, the Almighty Jehovah, the great Emperor of the universe. He is elsewhere called the prince of the power of the air, and that old serpent which is the devil and Satan. He is also called Beelzebub, the prince of devils.--Matt. 12:24.
Every reference to him represents him as an intelligent being of great power and influence, and an ambitious leader. Yet in the beginning of his existence he was pure and perfect, an intelligent creature of God, created through the agency of his only begotten Son, without whom nothing was made that was made.* (John 1:3.) Previous to his fall into sin he is spoken of as Lucifer, a morning star (a glorious being of creation's early morning).
*See issue of April 15, '93.
Referring to his fall, the Lord, who declares that he has no pleasure in the death of him that falls into sin and the consequent condemnation to death, says, "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!" Then he shows that undue ambition was the cause of his fall, saying, "For thou hast said in thine heart, Into heaven [the position of power] will I ascend; above the stars of God [other sons of the morning] will I exalt my throne; and I will sit also upon the mount of the assembly in the farthest end of the north [universal dominion]; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be equal to the Most High."-- Isa. 14:12-14. (That this language applies also, symbolically, to Papacy is entirely proper; for Papacy is Satan's own work in his own likeness.)
Thus, instead of humbly and thankfully appreciating the favor of God which brought him into existence and crowned him with glory and honor as a bright star of creation's early morning, and instead of returning due filial reverence, love and submission to his Creator's righteous will, Satan cultivated a spirit of pride; until his rising ambition aspired first to be a leader and chief of the other stars of the morning (the position already filled by the only begotten Son of God--John 1:1-3; Col. 1:15-17), and finally to rival the Most High himself, as king of the universe.
How different was the course of him who was actually above the morning stars, the angelic sons of creation's morning,--the only begotten Son of the Father, his honored agent in the [R1686 : page 250] creation of all things--not only of all the physical universe, but of all intelligences as well. Of him we read that, "though being in a form of God [a mighty one], yet he did not meditate a usurpation, but [on the contrary] divested himself [of his glory], taking a bondman's form, and was made in the likeness of men. And, being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself [yet more], and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."
"Wherefore," says the Apostle [because of his humility and obedience], "God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, both of things in heaven and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Phil. 2:6-11--Diaglott.) Thus, in accordance with a principle which God has laid down-- that he will abase the proud and exalt the humble (Matt. 23:12; Jas. 4:6)--we see our Lord Jesus now exalted to the very position to which Satan through pride and ambition aspired, while Satan has been degraded, "cut down [or limited] to the earth" (Isa. 14:12), and sentenced to final destruction.
Satan evidently had no faith in God's power, or perhaps in his willingness, to destroy him. Reasoning from the fact of his long continued existence, and his unimpaired powers without any evidence of approaching dissolution, he concluded that his life could not be terminated. Consequently his schemes for power and dominion were deep laid and far reaching, having, as he supposed, ample time for full development.
His ambitious policy seems to have begun to take shape immediately after the creation of man, through whose posterity, as they should multiply and attain the grand possibilities which he saw before them, he thought he saw his opportunity for the gratification of his hopes--for laying the foundation of his future dominion. And when he realized the restraint placed upon him, which limited the sphere of his influence to the earth, he seems to have determined to make the most of his opportunities among men.
From the promise of deliverance to mankind through the coming deliverer, he learned that a plan was already formed, the intended outcome of which was to be the triumph of the Son of God, whom he regarded with jealous hatred as a mighty rival.
It surely was no part of his original policy to prostrate the human race in death; and when to Eve he contradicted the threat of Jehovah, and declared, "Ye shall not surely die," he probably believed the lie, having first deceived himself, as most deceivers do. His object, seemingly, was to transfer man's allegiance from God to himself. He would represent God as a tyrant, curtailing the pleasures and powers of his creatures that he might have no rivals. And hence he said to Eve, "God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods." Thus too, Satan would pose as benefactor and liberator of men as he has often done since. And Satan's perverted heart may have reached that conclusion --that God was an ambitious tyrant and he, Satan, the true friend of liberty and progress. At all events, the death-penalty pronounced and executed upon the race was, we believe, an unlooked-for frustration of his plans. With this thought in mind, we see a continuation of the same line of policy, and an effort on the part of Satan, to outwit the Almighty, in the introduction of a new element among men, when some of the angels, under his seductive influence, were induced to leave their first estate* and to assume and retain the human form and take to themselves wives of the daughters of men (Gen. 6:1,2,4; Jude 6,7), thus imparting a new life principle to the Adamic stock, the result of which was a race of "mighty men of renown," who, presumably, might live forever. This was a desperate and masterly stroke of policy; but again God put forth his power and frustrated the scheme, destroying with a flood the whole mongrel race, and preserving only Noah with his family, who was "perfect in his generation;" i.e., of pure, unmixed Adamic stock.--Gen. 6:9.
*See issue of July 15, '94.
But, nothing daunted, Satan, the defiant rebel, began his work after the flood among the sons of Noah, and with varying success has since pursued his policy among the kingdoms of this world. And God has not specially interfered, [R1686 : page 251] and will not, until the end of this present evil world, when his time will have come for the setting up of Christ's Kingdom. Then, he declares, Satan shall be firmly fettered and imprisoned for a thousand years. His policy during the period termed "this present evil world" --from the flood to the dawn of the Millennium --has been on the same line of scheming for power. Ever working in the hearts of the children of disobedience, he has always kept in power a majority who were not lovers of God and righteousness, as the pages of history fully attest; and, working through the ambitions and selfishness of men, he has overturned kingdoms and revolutionized society with reckless indifference to miseries of men, in establishing his own dominion as "the prince of this world."
To this our Lord referred when, just previous to his crucifixion, he said to his disciples, "Hereafter I will not talk much with you; for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me." All along he had been in the world, and had been plotting and scheming and manipulating the affairs of men; but soon he was to come in the power of his kingdom, which we have seen to be the counterfeit kingdom of Christ, which was actually set up in the year 800 of the Christian era under the name of "The Holy Roman Empire." "Hereafter"-- after his death and resurrection--earth's rightful prince would have little to say; he would not interfere with the workings of the mystery of iniquity; he would permit the prince of this [R1687 : page 251] world to plot and scheme and develop his plans for setting up his counterfeit kingdom and doing what he could to frustrate the plan of Jehovah for the establishment of Christ's Kingdom.
From the pages of history we see how his kingdom was set up on a foundation of error, and how it was established on the basest principles of unrighteousness, with fire and fagot and sword and every device of torture wherewith to crush out truth and righteousness. And on the other hand, we see with what cunning craft he has endeavored to ensnare, entrap and lead astray, or, failing in this, to persecute the embryo Kingdom of God, the Christian Church, both the Head, Christ Jesus and all the members of his body. But when God's time for the establishment of Christ's Kingdom comes, Satan's kingdom will be brought to naught as effectually as was his former purpose at the time of the flood.
And even after the Millennial reign of Christ, notwithstanding the manifest futility of all his past endeavors, Satan's ambition, even then, will lead to an attempt to establish some measure of authority and influence among men. When, under the reign of Christ, the resurrection of the dead and the blessing of all the families of the earth has been accomplished, Satan will be loosed. It will be for only a little season (Rev. 20:7,3); for, his heart remaining unchanged, he will soon see a new avenue to the success of his long-cherished ambition, and be inspired with a fresh hope that his original purpose may yet be accomplished, and that victory may very shortly be his. Then he will see not merely a perfect human pair with power to produce a mighty race destined to live forever, but a race restored to life and vigor. His thought will be, If I can win this mighty race to my standard, my triumph and exaltation will be speedily accomplished. Again, therefore, he will figure as a leader, though, as now, unrecognized by men. Doubtless the temptation will again rest upon his old doctrine--that they shall not surely die, even if they do disregard and oppose the will of God. And those among men in whom the goodness of God has not wrought the spirit of humility and filial submission to his acknowledged superior wisdom, but, on the contrary, in whom pride has asserted itself, will easily be deceived and led into this error of believing that God either cannot or will not destroy them in a second death. God will permit Satan to work for a little season; and no doubt he will work with all the zeal which a hope of speedy victory would naturally inspire. But he shall not succeed beyond the point which God permits for the final testing of mankind, to prove who are worthy and who are unworthy of everlasting life. When this is accomplished, then will take place the destruction of Satan and all who follow his leading.
Thus discerning the general policy of our great adversary, we are enabled the better to understand his various devices and to discover his secret workings; and hence we should be [R1687 : page 252] the better guarded against his influence. In all his plottings and workings we see the evidence of an intellectuality which, though like the human, is far superior to it in power and scope, and with resources upon which to draw which are beyond the range of the human powers. Before the mind's eye, as represented in the Word of God, he stands out as a great intellectual giant, with an accumulation of more than six thousand years of knowledge and experience. What a mighty foe for poor fallen humanity to combat, with our present brief experience of three-score years and ten, and that in a degenerating and dying condition!
He is full of ambition for self-exaltation, puffed up with arrogant pride which so over-estimates his own greatness that he considers himself worthy of the honor, power and glory of God who gave him being, and is moved with merciless and continuous envy and hatred of the Son of God, as well as of the Heavenly Father who exalted him; and his whole career is untiringly devoted to his own ambitions and to frustration of the divine plans, which he vainly presumes to accomplish. In the pursuance of his policy he is utterly reckless of its cost to humanity. Men in whose hearts he can work are so many tools in his hand, whom he uses to oppose the principles of righteousness and truth. (Eph. 2:2.) For the accomplishment of his purposes there is no measure of hypocrisy which he would spurn (2 Cor. 11:14), no depth of iniquity to which he would not descend (John 13:27; 2 Thes. 2:9,10), no measure of cruelty that he would spare, and no height of folly to which he would not lead his deluded victims. He is a hypocrite, a deceiver, a tyrant and a merciless enemy of all who stand in the way of his ambitions. Look out for him! He will dog your steps; he will blind your eyes; he will stop your ears; he will fetter and hand-cuff and mentally chain you to his chariot-wheels, if you beware not of him. He it is who now "has the dominion of death"--whose power is manifest throughout the earth among those under condemnation to death. Here he goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (1 Pet. 5:8.) In the great Papal system, the most complete representative of his policy, his lionlike strength has most fully appeared, and his lionlike jaws have greedily devoured every interest of his deluded victims, while with the fires of persecution he has sought to devour in another sense the faithful few, who, despite his roaring anathemas, have bravely withstood his power. But, nevertheless, his days are numbered and his end is sure; for it is written that God will destroy him "holding the dominion of death [not the eternal dominion and glory and power to which he aspired, but an ignominious dominion amid sin and death, over poor fallen humanity], that is, the devil."--Heb. 2:14 --Rotherham; Rom. 16:20; Rev. 20:10.
A clear distinction, however, should be borne in mind, as between Satan and those angels that "kept not their first estate." Satan has sinned wilfully against so great light, and has so persisted in his evil course, that infinite wisdom finds no place to do more for him.
As children of God, therefore, in the midst of Satan's dominion and in opposition to his power, let us beware "lest Satan should get an advantage of us [through one or another of the numerous snares he has set for our feet]; for we are not ignorant of his devices." (2 Cor. 2:11.) "Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil; for we wrestle not against flesh and blood. [There are mighty invisible powers under the leadership of the prince of this world plotting to accomplish the stumbling of the "feet" of the body of Christ, and flesh and blood are only used as tools for that purpose, by the great adversary], but [we wrestle] against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against wicked spirits in heavenly places [in places of authority and power." (Eph. 6:11,12, margin.) Yet, if well armed with the whole armor which God supplies, and following our Captain's leading, we are safe; for greater is he that is for us than all that are against us.
STUDIES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT. --INTERNATIONAL S.S. LESSONS.--
SUGGESTIVE THOUGHTS DESIGNED TO ASSIST THOSE OF OUR READERS WHO ATTEND BIBLE CLASSES WHERE THESE LESSONS ARE USED; THAT THEY MAY BE ENABLED TO LEAD OTHERS INTO THE FULNESS OF THE GOSPEL.
THE BAPTISM OF JESUS.
III. QUAR., LESSON VI., AUG. 5, MARK 1:1-11.
Golden Text--"Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."--Mark 1:11.
This lesson presents the subject of baptism in two different aspects--(1) a baptism unto repentance; and (2) a baptism unto entire consecration to the will of God, even unto death. The first was the baptism which John preached: the second was that which our Lord instituted and exemplified. Both are distinctly referred to in Acts 19:3-5.
The preaching and baptism of John were [R1687 : page 253] a special call to God's covenant people, Israel after the flesh, to repent of their sins and their failure as a nation and as individuals to live up to their early covenant with the Lord. (Exod. 19:8.) The stirring theme of this last and greatest (most honored) prophet was that the Messiah, the King, had come; that his Kingdom was at hand; and that Israel, the chosen people, whose privilege it was to be the heirs of Kingdom, should at once prepare their minds and hearts, repent of their sins and be fully consecrated to God, that so they might be counted worthy to inherit the covenant blessings.
John came to that people in the spirit and power of Elias--i.e., with the same disposition, zeal, energy and power of eloquent persuasion, that characterized the ancient prophet. Even his dress and abstemious mode of life were marks of similarity; and so striking was the resemblance that the priests and Levites inquired, "Art thou Elias? Art thou that prophet?" (Mal. 4:5; Deut. 18:15,18; John 1:21.) But John replied, "No...I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the Prophet Esaias." --Isa. 40:3; John 1:23-27.
Though John came in the spirit and power of Elias, and would have fully answered as the antitype of Elias had he been received by the Jewish people (Matt. 11:14), yet he was not the Elias, the Great Prophet, referred to by the Prophet Malachi (4:5,6); for the Lord, foreseeing Israel's rejection of John's testimony concerning Christ, had in mind another antitypical Elias, viz., the true Gospel Church in the flesh, which, in the spirit and power of Elias, is the forerunner of the spiritual Christ complete, Head and body.--See M. DAWN, VOL. II., Chap. viii.
That the Kingdom of Heaven was "at hand" in John's day, was true, regarding that Kingdom and its formative or embryo state--the state in which during the entire Gospel age it has suffered humiliation and [R1688 : page 253] violence (Matt. 11:12);--but it was reserved for the Elias (the Church) of to-day to declare "the Kingdom at hand" in its glory and power.
John's preaching drew great multitudes of all classes who confessed their sins and were baptized; but when later they failed to see either the King or the Kingdom in earthly glory, as they had anticipated, they lapsed into unbelief, only a small remnant heeding the prophecies of the humiliation of the Kingdom prior to its exaltation. Hence but few accepted Christ and became identified with his cause as prospective heirs with him of the Kingdom.
With the baptism of Jesus that ordinance received a new significance. He had no sins whereof to repent or to symbolically wash away, but as a perfect man he had something to offer as a living sacrifice to God. He had a human nature which he desired should be completely submitted to the will of God, even unto death; which complete subjection was symbolized by his baptism, or immersion, in water. The baptism in water was the symbol of his consecration, and the subsequent anointing with the holy spirit, outwardly testified by the opening heavens, the descending dove and the approving voice, was God's recognition and acceptance of his sacrifice. (Verses 10,11.) And the same anointing, the same baptism, is promised to all who follow in his footprints. (See Verse 8; 1 John 2:27.) As in the type (Lev. 8:12; Psa. 133:2), the anointing came first upon the Head, the High Priest of our profession, and from him it descends upon all the members of his body, the Church.--See THE TABERNACLE SHADOWS, page 32 [possibly page 37 - site Editor]. [R1688 : page 253]
THE TEMPTATION OF JESUS.
III. QUAR., LESSON VII., AUG. 12, MATT. 4:1-11.
Golden Text--"In all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin."--Heb. 4:15.
Our Lord's temptation immediately followed his consecration and baptism, and as a logical consequence. The temptation came from Satan, "the prince of this world" (John 14:30; Luke 4:5,6), who came to our Lord just as he comes to his followers--as an angel of light, and with his real character and purposes cloaked.
VERSE 1. Immediately after his consecration, being full of the holy spirit, of zeal to accomplish his appointed mission, our Lord's most natural and reasonable impulse (which was truly the leading or prompting of the holy spirit within him) was to withdraw in solitude for meditation upon the sure word of divine law and prophecy, and for prayer, that thus he might fully comprehend the purpose of God in sending him into the world, and gain strength to accomplish it. For although as a perfect being our Lord, even as a child of twelve, surprised [R1688 : page 254] the Doctors of the Law by his wisdom and perception, yet he could not grasp the full import of the prophecies and of his own share in them until after he had been baptized or anointed with the holy spirit of God, following his presentation of himself to God's service.
With the intellectual endowments of a perfect man it was not necessary that he should take with him the scroll of the law and the prophets, when he turned aside into the wilderness for meditation; for, having been a student of them from his youth up, they were all doubtless stored in his perfect memory. As there he meditated in solitude upon the law and the prophecies touching the work before him, carefully comparing Scripture with Scripture and reasoning on them, with increasing clearness and under the influence of the holy spirit, the divine plan opened up before him, showing a pathway of humiliation and sacrifice culminating in death, and accomplishing almost nothing for the present amelioration of suffering humanity. Though times and seasons for the full accomplishment of the restitution of all things were wisely hidden from his view (Mark 13:32), as they were also wisely hidden from the Church's view until the realization of it was near at hand, he doubtless foresaw that considerable time must elapse and that the pathway to that glorious culmination must necessarily be a narrow, difficult, and to the eyes of men, an inglorious one.
Such a realization, when first dawning on the mind, would naturally bring with it some measure of disappointment to one whose sympathetic love and zeal so longed to lift the load of sin and misery from fallen humanity. God's appointed time for blessing was evidently at quite a distance in the future: his grand designs mature slowly; and only in the light of their full accomplishment can the necessity for all the painful steps thereto be appreciated. Consequently, until such time the loyal and obedient sons of God must walk by faith, and not by sight. This his only begotten Son did, thus setting us an example that we should follow in his steps.
The natural craving of the loving, benevolent, perfect heart of Jesus to lift up and bless humanity opened a way for Satan to present a temptation to him which would verily be a trying one; and he improved the opportunity, his object being to thwart, if possible, the divine purpose by turning our Lord aside from it and absorbing his time and energies in other pursuits. Accordingly, his first temptation was that recorded in
VERSES 5,6. A Scripture was brought to his attention which seemed to imply that it was God's plan that he should attract attention to himself, and introduce himself to the people by leaping from the pinnacle of the Temple into the valley below, and, by being preserved from harm, attract the attention of the people to himself and to the providence of God over his physical life, and thus to his acceptance as Israel's King and Messiah. The suggestion was plausible, but our Lord saw that such a transgression of the laws of nature was not probably God's will; and then he recalled a Scripture which settled the question as to his duty,--"Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." Thus this temptation was ended. He must serve and trust God--not prove or test providence by disregarding his clearly understood laws of nature. It doubtless was Deut. 6:16 that decided the Lord's course in this temptation. Although filled with the spirit, he relied upon what was "written" for his replies to temptations. And our Lord's spirit or disposition was far from that of tempting God with unreasonable and unnecessary requests: he claimed no temporal favors--no protection against the legitimate, natural results of any presumptuous experiment. Thus, discerning the real spirit of God's Word by the spirit of God which was in him, our Lord refused any misapplication of it, made manifest by its lack of harmony with its true spirit, intent or purpose.
Similar temptations have come to thousands of God's people in the claims of Spiritualism, Christian Science, etc.; and those who succumb to them have their reward in the deceptions of the Adversary who leads them boldly on from one presumptuous claim to another, until they are hopelessly entangled in his ensnaring net. Those who would escape this snare should meet it as the Lord met the temptation; for it is written, "Seek not unto them that peep and mutter and have familiar spirits,"--i.e., are spirit mediums.--Lev. 19:31; Isa. 8:19.
Other common forms of this temptation are: (1) Eating what you know does not agree with your system and asking God to bless it and keep you from experiencing its legitimate effects; (2) otherwise sowing to [R1688 : page 255] the flesh and asking God to give a crop of spiritual blessings; (3) from curiosity or other motives tampering with things known to be evils, and expecting blessings to result, --as, for instance, the reading of literature which you have proved to be off the true foundation (the ransom), and praying God to keep you in the truth. These are temptings of God's providence, and as such should be put far away from every real child of God. "Hearken, and eat ye that which is good," instead of tempting God by eating that which is bad and praying and hoping for blessings from it.
(In reference to the above Scripture-- Psa. 91:11,12--we remark that its proper application is to the Church, of which Christ Jesus is the Head and of which his living saints are the feet. These are the "feet" now being borne up by God's messengers of truth lest they stumble in this evil day in which all others will surely stumble.)
Failing in this attempt to ensnare our Lord, Satan's next effort was a still more subtle one--
VERSES 8,9. The power of the kings and potentates of this present world or order of things was brought before his mind with the suggestion that with some maneuvering and wire-pulling, he, as a perfect man, and therefore so far superior to all other men, could soon win his way to a chief place of power and dominion over the whole world, which place of power he could at once begin to utilize for the blessing of mankind. In this view of the situation he mentally saw himself in the top of a very high mountain (kingdom)--an autocratic emperor having dominion over the whole world and using his power for the betterment of the entire race.
That was a suggestion worthy of the consideration of such a benevolent heart; but again he stopped to consider how it was written. "To the law and to the testimony!" said the prophet; and to the law and to the testimony he went, impelled by the same spirit of meekness and obedience that led to his consecration and baptism, to see if this suggestion was in harmony with the plan of God. [R1689 : page 255]
As he carefully considered it, he found it was not so--that he was not then to be exalted among men to power and influence, but that, on the contrary, he was to be despised among men, and that they would turn their faces from him, and not toward him; that he was to be a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Thus the suggestion was seen to be out of harmony with the divine plan, and it was promptly recognized as a temptation of Satan, who was again repelled by the "sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God;" for, said he: "It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve."
He had come to serve the Lord's plan, and therefore not to accept any suggestions out of harmony with that plan. He foresaw that the suggested course would involve many compromises of truth and righteousness with evil men then in power in order to gain the coveted place of power and influence, just as all office-seekers under the present order of things have always found it. They must bow down and do homage to the "prince of this world" by the sacrifice of many of the principles of truth and righteousness in order to be installed in power. This the Lord would not do; nor will any of his followers; for, like him, they will discern the temptation and say, "Get thee hence, Satan."
This same temptation has been presented to the Church, the body of Christ, throughout the entire age; and the result of this test of her fidelity has been that only a very small minority of those who nominally constituted the Church proved to have the spirit of the Head, which rejected the temptation and faithfully pursued the narrow way of the divine appointment. Early in the Church's history the spirit of the "prince of this world" offered power and influence in consideration of the sacrifice of Christian principles and doctrine; and the masses of professed Christians accepted the offer, in consequence of which the great antichristian systems of nominal Christianity have been exalted, while the true saints, whose names are written in heaven (Heb. 12:23), have, like their Lord, been despised and rejected of men--men of sorrows and acquainted with grief; because of their unflinching determination to worship God and serve him (his plan) only.
VERSES 3,4. One more temptation awaited our Lord. During the forty days and nights of profound meditation and study and of brave resistance and conquest of temptation, he seemed to forget the demands of nature for food; or perhaps the spirit of sacrifice impelled him to ignore them [R1689 : page 256] in the interest of his mental and spiritual work, his perfect physical constitution permitting him to endure the privation longer than other men could. But, not until afterward--after forty days of fasting--did he seem to realize the cravings of hunger. And then there was nothing in the wilderness to satisfy it. Then came the suggestion to call in the aid of divine power to support by miraculous manner the life which he had consecrated to sacrifice,--by commanding that the stones be made bread. This temptation was equivalent to that which comes also to many of the consecrated Church--viz., to request of God the healing of the body and the protection of the natural life which is consecrated to death.
Our Lord's reply was, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." That is, our meat and drink should be to do the will of our God and to finish his work (John 4:34) at any cost to ourselves; and to ask to be relieved from the legitimate effects of such a course would be out of harmony with the very spirit of sacrifice, which in the present time is the way to eternal life.
Our Lord had the power to turn the stones to bread; and later he did turn water into wine, and, to feed the multitudes, he twice made food out of nothing--increasing two fishes and three small loaves into an abundance for thousands. But these miracles were an unselfish use of his power. He never used that power selfishly: to have done so would have been an avoidance of his covenant of sacrifice; and such a suggestion was this temptation.
The same principle attaches to our prayers and efforts for the sick: they should be unselfish. We, the consecrated, are not authorized to call upon divine power for the healing of our own infirmities. Our Lord healed the multitudes, but when weary himself simply sat down and rested. On the same principle, the Apostle Paul healed the multitudes, but did not cure himself. He sent napkins and handkerchiefs to the diseased, but when the consecrated were sick he sent none to them. Compare Acts 19:12; 28:7-9; 2 Tim. 4:20; 1 Tim. 5:23 on this subject. Also see TOWER for July '88. We have only a few of this number, but we will lend a copy to anyone requesting it who will promise to return it after reading.
In consideration of these temptations of our Lord, we realize how true is the statement of our Golden Text--that our High Priest "was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." He was not tempted like the world--to godlessness, vice and criminality; but like the Church--(1) To a deceitful handling of the Word of God for the purpose of gaining its apparent support for human theories, instead of patiently waiting until the long time and painful processes of God's plan mature; (2) To ambitious efforts to gain present power and advantage, even for the apparently good purpose of blessing others now instead of waiting God's time and conforming all our present efforts to the present direction of his plan; (3) To take the sacrifice off the altar when we begin to realize what fortitude and zeal are necessary to fully render it.
These, in general terms, are the great temptations which assail the Church, as they assailed her Head; and their source and channels are--the world, the flesh and the devil. The devil is the instigator, and the environments of the present world and the natural and often legitimate desires of the flesh (surely legitimate in our Lord's case) are the mediums through which his temptations are presented.
The fact that these temptations occur to us does not constitute sin. They came also to our Lord, who was without sin. The sin is not in being tempted, but in yielding to temptation.
VERSE 11. "Then the devil leaveth him." The spirit of the Lord in Jesus was more than a match for the tempter, and the sword of the spirit did its work, as it always does. With this weapon "resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (Jas. 4:7.) No power of art or spurious logic can stand against it; for it is mighty and shall prevail.
"And, behold, angels came and ministered unto him." But they came uninvited. As on a similar occasion subsequently (Matt. 26:53,54), he declined to ask any temporal favors; but the Father graciously granted on this occasion even the temporal favors; though on the later occasion it was withheld that the divine purpose might be accomplished in the sacrificial death of his beloved Son.
What a beautiful example the Lord thus furnishes of Christian fortitude which never flinches nor hesitates, but with fixedness of purpose steadily pursues the appointed course of sacrifice!
ZION'S WATCH TOWER AND HERALD OF CHRIST'S PRESENCE.
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A REMARKABLE NARRATIVE.
"The Rev. Dr. John Joseph Nouri, D.D., LL.D., Chaldean archdeacon of Babylon and Jerusalem, pontifical delegate general of Malabar and ex-grand secretary of the Metropolitan archdiocese of India and Persia, has found Noah's ark! At least he says he has, tells a very straight though somewhat gorgeous story about it and has gained believers among men of piety and learning. He is of the Orthodox Greek church and his labors have been chiefly in Africa and southwestern Asia.
"After spending several years in African explorations, Dr. Nouri crossed the east mountains to the coast of Abyssinia, and was received with great honors. His expedition up the Euphrates and over the Ararat was an expensive affair, but he got there, camped on the plateau and climbed the two peaks. Between them is a valley, and from each side of it rise the peaks --one 16,000 and the other nearly 18,000 feet high. Starting in March, they found the snow-drifts impassable, and waited another month. Then they climbed to within sight of a narrow plateau almost on the summit, and on that plateau they saw the ark.
"'The bow and stern,' says the archdeacon, were clearly in view, but the center was buried in snow and one end of it had fallen off and decayed. It stood more than 100 feet high and was over 300 yards long. The wood was peculiar, dark reddish in color, almost iron colored in fact, and seemed very thick. I think the cold has preserved the wood. I am very positive that we saw the real ark, though it is over 4,000 years old.'
"Though within rifle shot they could not reach it, the slope from the 'bench' on which it rested being a glare of ice and snow, and they could not remain till the midsummer thaw. Many educated gentlemen, including preachers, have called upon Archdeacon Nouri and found him a most fascinating talker. He speaks ten languages with considerable fluency, having also a smattering of the local dialects of various places. He is by birth a Syrian of the old Chaldean stock, and is a man of great wealth. His credentials are a study in themselves. His commission for Persia and India is signed by all the Greek bishops of those countries to the number of eighty." --Selected.
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
VOL. XV. AUGUST 15, 1894. NO. 16. BRINGING BACK THE KING.
"WHY ARE YE THE LAST TO BRING BACK THE KING?""And King David sent to Zadok and to Abiathar the priests, saying, Speak unto the elders of Judah, saying, Why are ye the last to bring the king back to his house? seeing the speech of all Israel is come to the king, even to his house. Ye are my brethren; ye are my bones and my flesh: wherefore, then, are ye the last to bring back the king?"--2 Sam. 19:9-12.IN the scrap of history here recorded we find an illustration of a very similar condition of things in the world to-day. The kingdom of Israel had been thrown into a state of confusion, threatening anarchy, in consequence of being left for a time without any official head or king, by the rebellion of Absalom and the divided sentiments of the people.
Absalom had cunningly managed to alienate the hearts of the people from his father David, and had finally headed a revolt. And David, in fear of the consequences, fled from the city and country to the region beyond Jordan, accompanied by a few loyal and faithful subjects. A great battle took place, which resulted in the prompt subduing of the rebellion and in the death of Absalom, the would-be usurper.
Afterward King David did not attempt to repossess himself of the Kingdom, but waited until the desire of Israel for his return should be expressed.
Meantime, says the record, "All the people were at strife throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, The king saved us out of the hand of our enemies, and he delivered us out of the hand of the Philistines; and now he is fled out of the land for Absalom. And Absalom whom we anointed over us is dead in battle. Now, therefore, why speak ye not a word of bringing the king back?"
Just so it is in the world to-day. Earth's rightful King is not upon its throne, nor has the world recognized his right to it or desired his return. Men have been busy with their own schemes and plans of government. They have anointed various kings of their own choosing: in fact, they have tried every experiment of self-government; and, one after another, all have ended in failure. And now, after six thousand years of human experiment, the whole world is on the verge of a revolution, in the outcome of which they have nothing to expect but anarchy.
In times past the civil and religious powers of the world have been yoked together for mutual support, and have defended each other. It mattered not, so far as the state was concerned, whether the religion was a true or a false one, so that it kept the people in subjection to the ruling powers. Civil rulers have always favored most the religion that best served this end. Ecclesiastical rulers have also in turn looked to the State for compensating favors; and in the days of their power they exacted much. Thus the two were in close affiliation. Around each there has always gathered a privileged aristocracy of wealth and brains and education, which has ever kept them at the head of social influence and power. But the overruling providence of God has in recent times [R1690 : page 260] been bringing about a change, so that knowledge and general enlightenment have been brought within the range of the common people. The printing press, common schools, daily newspapers, the multiplicity of books, cheap and rapid means of travel and communication by steam and electricity--all of these and minor influences have waked up the masses of the people and set them to thinking and planning and studying and traveling and acquiring and aspiring to higher if not to better things.
So general has this tendency of the people become, that the favored aristocratic classes, who have long enjoyed a monopoly of this world's good things, are in fear lest their glory may suddenly depart. And well indeed they may be; for the struggling masses are determined to reach the top rounds of the ladder of fortune, no matter what hoary-headed authorities may stand in their way. The struggle is already on, and the threatening aspect of things forebodes an early fulfilment of that prophecy of Daniel (12:1), "There shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation."
The Scriptures also indicate the character of the trouble--that it will be one in which the animosities of the masses will be exercised with violence against the rich, and the specially favored aristocratic classes,--political, social and religious. (Jas. 5:1-6; Ezek. 7:19, etc.) And what intelligent observer of the signs of the times cannot see the rapid development of just such a trouble in the present proportions of the socialistic and anarchistic movements, and their aggressive disposition? Indeed, the civil and social condition of the world is appalling, from every standpoint, whether it be that of politics, social order, finance or religion.
In every land the tendency of politics is to corruption, both in civil and ecclesiastical circles; not because people are really worse than formerly, but because enlightenment is so much greater and more general, that temptations to cupidity are a hundred times greater than ever before. Social order is continually menaced; the strain between capital and labor is unprecedented; and true religion, the religion of the cross, is at a very low ebb. Many who begin to realize the seriousness of the present situation, as they forecast the outcome of all these things, in substance disconsolately say, as the Prophet Jeremiah (8:15-19) foretold they would--"We hoped for peace, but no happiness is here; for a time of cure, and behold here is terror. When I would comfort myself against sorrow, my heart is faint in me. Is the Lord not in Zion? is her King no more in her?"
In the religious situation there is little to be seen in the way of encouragement: the clash of conflicting creeds and their discord with the notes of divine revelation are most painfully manifest. In consequence of this, and of the general awakening and mental activity of our day, we find Infidelity, bold and outspoken, rampant in every denomination of "Christendom;" the truths and the errors of hoary creeds of men are being discarded in fact (though not by admission, for fear of the effect); and the general tendency is to ignore the Bible doctrine and terms of salvation, and merely to hold our morality as the hope of everlasting life, alike to believers in Christ and to unbelievers. A proposition so much in harmony with the pride of the natural man (which always prefers to pay its own way, and feels that it is "nearly good enough") is bound to be popular; while the cross of Christ has always been a stumbling-block, and its preaching unpopular and a cause of division to them that stumble at the word, being disobedient.--1 Pet. 2:8.
Infidelity--i.e., unbelief in the sound doctrine taught by the Lord and his inspired apostles --sits in the pews, declaims from the pulpits, rules in the assemblies, and is even finding its way into the Sunday School literature--in the interpretations of the International Lessons. It is ably seconded by Doubt or Agnosticism; and together these strike with increasing determination against the very foundation doctrines of Christianity--the fall of man and his redemption by the vicarious sacrifice of Christ. Discrediting the Bible account of the fall of the race in Adam, and hence the necessity of its redemption through Christ, it substitutes the entirely antagonistic theory of Evolution--that man was evolved from lower animal forms, by his own effort, that he has now reached a higher plane than was ever before realized, and that he [R1690 : page 261] will continue to so make progress indefinitely.
It institutes what it is pleased to term a "higher criticism" of the Word of God, by which the sacred record is being gradually whittled and trimmed to fit the present state of development of human philosophies and science --often falsely so called--thereby to lend its seeming sanction to the idea that the philosophy and science of the nineteenth century are the very climax of perfection and the essence of wisdom. It slashes its ruthless scissors into miracles, calls them all incredible, and believes only those things for which it has tangible evidence. It claims that at most the apostles and prophets of the Bible had an inspiration of thought, which they clothed more or less imperfectly in language of their own choice; and that therefore each reader has the liberty to whittle out of their words such thoughts as best suit his own conceptions of truth, relying on an inspiration of his own mind, equal to theirs with the advantages of present-day higher criticism. The apostles tell us, to the contrary, that they were inspired as to the words they spoke and wrote, and not as to the thoughts or sentiments. (See 2 Pet. 1:21; 1 Pet. 1:12.) It places the Bible and its writers on a par with all profane history and historians, and says that much of the Bible is fiction, and that it is impossible to discover the dividing line between truth and fiction.
Under the various disintegrating influences of our peculiar day the old creeds are fast crumbling into ruin, and the old institutions which they held together are being terribly shaken; and the various attempts at reorganization on other grounds are all open to a thousand objections. The faith of all is being tested, and many who really care to have a faith, and who long for a firm establishment in divine truth, are indeed in dismay.
Nominal Christianity is fast losing its power over the masses; for the general awakening of the human mind has loosened the reins of superstition, so that the most illiterate begin to realize that they are men, with all the prerogatives of men, and that the king and the priest are nothing more, except as the superior advantages of wealth and education have developed in them the faculties which are common to all mankind. And the unreasonable and unscriptural doctrines of the divine right of kings and [R1691 : page 261] of the eternal torment of a large proportion of humanity, and kindred absurdities, are coming more and more into disrepute, and have less and less of a restraining influence upon the masses of men, who rightly reason that since "the earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof," and since "God is no respecter of persons," the peasant has an equal right with the king or the priest to share its bounties.
To the awakening masses the only apparent way to obtain their ends is by revolt against the existing arrangements;--they see not the Jubilee of "restitution times" which God has promised. (Acts 3:19-21.) And the hearts of all classes being under the control of selfish principles, it is only a question of increasing unrest from increasing knowledge and liberty, and of divine permission (Rev. 7:1-3), when the terrible crisis of trouble will consume the present order of society.
It is in view of this clearly discernible trend of present events that the thrones of earth are trembling, and that statesmen are greatly perplexed in seeking measures of policy to avert the impending disaster. The sea and the waves (the restless masses of humanity) are roaring, and the mountains (kingdoms) are shaking with the swellings thereof.--Psa. 46:3.
Six years ago Prince Bismark called attention in the German Reichstag to the fact that great national crises occur about every twenty years, and urged that such contingencies should be prepared for. And more recently, in justification of the last army bill, he recounted the special dangers to Germany, lying, as she does, in the center of Europe, exposed to the hostile powers of France on the east, and of Russia on the west, as well as to the dangers of their coalition, and the lack of cohesion among her own people. Again he said, "European countries have something more important to attend to than making war upon each other. They should unite in suppressing the crime of socialism." But that is more easily said than done; for the nations are not ready to unite on any thing. And where is the power of resistance which the [R1691 : page 262] rulers would call to their aid in such a contingency, when the armies upon which they depend are permeated with socialistic sentiments? The power of the churches was relied upon once, when the churches demanded and got a superstitious reverence for civil potentates and ecclesiastical dignitaries; but that day is almost past; and the reins of superstition are growing more and more slack. The time was when a German Emperor stood for three days and nights barefoot in the snow, waiting for Papal absolution, that the dreaded Papal interdict might be lifted and his authority in the empire established by the word of the Pope. And glad indeed would some of the crowned heads be to-day to see that power restored to the control of the public mind, for the support of kingly authority. This is illustrated by the fact of Germany's repealing the law that expelled the Jesuits. Although those infamous allies of Papal power have been a menace to good government in every land, and have been alternately expelled and re-instated again and again in almost every land, their influence is felt to be a necessity now against the increasing influence and power of Socialism and Anarchy.
Dynamite plots and assassinations are getting to be common occurrences. Several bills have been presented and favorably considered in the French Chamber of Deputies looking to the suppression of Socialistic movements. And since the assassination of President Carnot one of the most stringent of these has passed into a law. Similar regulations are before the governments of Austria and Spain; the latter, indeed, proposes to all civilized governments common laws for the suppression of Anarchists, their literature and their sympathizers.
The wonderful mechanical inventions of this "day of the Lord's preparation" for the Millennium (Nah. 2:3), the manufacture of which has for a time brought great prosperity to the whole world, once gave promise of great future blessing to all mankind, by a general increase of wealth, and lessening of the drudgery of earth. But the masses are awakening to the fact that they were dreaming when wasting good wages in extravagance or dissipation or sloth, thinking that the "good times had come to stay." There were others not so short-sighted, who, by economic prudence, temperance, etc., accumulated a little money, and who foresaw that machinery would make the best of all slaves --requiring less for maintenance and doing the work of many. Some of these frugal, thrifty, far-seeing ones, by the aid of their mechanical slaves, have become wealthy--immensely wealthy; and one half of the world is now striving to serve these and to manufacture more slaves for them. Thus after the point of demand has been reached there comes a halt all around--a stagnation. And since human muscle and brain cannot compete against these mechanical iron slaves, all are dependent upon these and their millionaire masters, that they may work with these slaves. Under these circumstances, nothing can prevent the decline of human labor in every channel to a lower and yet lower level, until the common, unskilled laborer will scarce be worth his board, and must be supported by the charity of his fellow-creatures better equipped for the battle of life. Unskilled muscle is being crowded out by mechanical slaves, and even skilled muscle is beginning to feel its pressure. Brains, backed by machinery and money, are already masters of the situation, and the increase of machinery and of wealth is marvelous. On the other hand, the population of the world is increasing rapidly, and the increase of intelligence increases the skilled workmen of the world and their competition with each other for the luxuries and necessities of life, to be had only by serving the slave owners, the world's masters.
Poor world! This is a gloomy outlook, yet one which all who can and will reason must see is a true view, if something does not occur to alter results by changing conditions or causes. All thinking people see this; but many stifle reason and reflection, and swim along as near to the cream and as far from the dregs of society as they can get.
It is useless to reason with the wealthy owners of these iron slaves, for they will get the best of the argument,--reasoning upon the generally accepted basis. Their answer to those who would reason with them is a correct one. They say:--
We are acting upon the same principles upon [R1691 : page 263] which you act;--we are no more selfish than you; --we give more generously than you to the support of educational and benevolent institutions; --we pay our employees better wages than others can afford to pay;--we pay more taxes than do others;--indeed, as society exists at present, our brains, capital and iron slaves are necessary to the well-being of the world;--we could get along without others, but they cannot get along without us;--if we, the masters of the world, should combine to stop our iron slaves, and close our establishments, the world's affairs would be thrown into chaos. We do not claim to do our business on principles of love and benevolence any more than do the farmers and mechanics. Each is trying to do the best he can for himself. We, like others, are ruled by selfishness; but a selfishness less narrow and mean--more generous --than that which is exercising many of our employees and others less successful than we. You can make no laws to hinder our success; for of necessity such laws would injure others as much as they would injure us, or more. We are independent, others are dependent. So long as selfishness is recognized as the rule of life, we must be conceded to be as generous under that law as any.
Socialism and Nationalism reply that the remedy is to do all large business on a communistic scale for the public benefit. But they fail to see that selfish ambition for wealth, power and honor, which at present is pushing the world with lightning speed, would, by their program, be set aside--with nothing in its stead to take its place. It is but a chimerical fancy, that if selfish ambition were rendered powerless, loving benevolence would step forward in its stead and push the world along. Alas! too few of the human family have any knowledge of love as a motive power. Indeed, we may be sure that if selfish ambition were bound hand and foot, selfish indolence would take its place amongst poor and rich, until necessity would complete the release and re-enthronement of selfish ambition to keep society from miserably perishing in sloth.
Indeed, the Scriptures indicate that this will be the very course, and that anarchy will finally result, and that THE RELIEF WILL COME ONLY WITH THE RETURN OF THE KING, IN POWER AND GREAT MAJESTY.
We wait not for the King as the sweet babe of Bethlehem, nor yet as "the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all;" but we wait for him who, having been "put to death in flesh, was quickened [made alive] in spirit"-- who was raised from death a spirit being--highly exalted above his condition as a man, higher even than his condition as a spirit-being before he humbled himself to become a man,--highly exalted, even to the divine nature, far above human nature and angelic nature and every other nature. Such is the nature and majesty of the King for whom we wait, and whose presence and Kingdom we are assured can and will bring order out of earth's confusion, and bring to the world the blessings purchased with his own precious blood, given when he was a man, once for all and forever as man's redemption-price.
The same King whom Herod and his soldiers crowned with thorns, and in mockery clothed [R1692 : page 263] in royal robes, and hailed, "King of the Jews!" the same whom Pilate crucified between two thieves, and over whose head he placed the inscription, "Jesus, the King of the Jews"--this same King we look for now, but no longer in a body of flesh, a body of humiliation, a body prepared for our sin-offering. He comes in power and great glory, the express image of the Father's person, and in the glory and majesty of the Father's person, and in the glory and majesty of the Father, "whom no man hath seen, nor can see" (1 Tim. 6:16), the same whom Saul of Tarsus saw, but whom his companions saw not. The same wise, sympathizing, loving soul (person) that wept and died; but greatly changed --resurrected and glorified by divine power; a new organism, but the same being; not flesh, but spirit; not weak, but powerful; not corruptible, but incorruptible; not dishonored, but honored; --possessing "all power in heaven and in earth."--See 1 Cor. 15:20,42-44,50; Phil 3:10; Matt. 28:18.
Some have dreamed that selfishness is being rapidly swallowed up of love, throughout the world; but not so: it alters its outward form to meet [R1692 : page 264] changed circumstances and conditions, but under the surface selfishness is still to be found everywhere; and in almost every heart it is the actual motive power of life. And so strong is the selfish power in mankind, so deep seated, that it is a vain delusion to presume that the preaching of the gospel will ever convert the world from the motive power of selfishness to that of love.
True, some are thus converted; but altogether these are but a "little flock;" and so different from the masses that they are and always have been "peculiar people," zealous, not for self-interest, but for good works, for God's glory and for the welfare of others, regardless often of personal prosperity or interest.
Man's experience is now being so arranged for him as to bring to the masses the proof that selfishness is not the proper motive power, the welfare of all being considered; because, in the present condition of physical and mental inequality, the mentally and physically strong would get all there is, while the weaker and imbecile would be wholly dependent upon their charity for existence; and as the ratio of difference would continue to increase, it would mean that ultimately the wealth and government of the world would all be in the hands of a few intellectual giants. And even if all men were mentally and physically perfect and equal, the result of the operation of selfishness would mean a continual strife for mastery, greatness, power and advantage, which would mar the bliss of a Paradise.
The light of invention in this, our day, is intended to have this very effect;--to let things take this course and to let people see what would be the result if selfish principles were allowed to go to seed. Many whose senses are exercised can already foresee the result, and many are seeking the remedy, but in a wrong direction. They want the motive power of love substituted for the motive power of selfishness in those who have control of governments and large enterprises. They are seeking in others the character and methods of Jesus, but have never adopted his character and methods as their own. They admit the superiority of love over selfishness, and would like to have the wealthy adopt the principle of love, while they would, for a time at least, continue the policy of selfishness, until they too had become wealthy.
They forget that love cannot become an element of daily life, and its controlling force, until it has first become an element of character in the individual heart. Only those whose hearts have been thoroughly converted to the Lord, and who are seeking and praying to be dead to self, realize what a fight is necessary to keep this strongly entrenched element of the fallen character under the control of the Word and spirit of Christ, our Redeemer and Pattern. Others see not the folly of their hopes to introduce by laws the rule and motive power of love, and to oust the rule and motive power of selfishness, while the hearts of the vast majority know nothing whatever of such a change of principle as a personal experience. As men come to realize, by further experience, the folly of such hopes and efforts, THE NUMBER OF THOSE WHO WILL SPEAK OF BRINGING BACK THE KING WILL INCREASE.
Ah, yes! That is the remedy, and the only remedy at all adequate to the cure of the disease of selfishness, its eradication from the body --social, political and financial.
But while the King of earth (whose right the government is, and who will shortly take unto himself his great power and reign, and bring order out of confusion) is called the "Good Physician," let none assume that by this is implied that he will cause his patient no pain when he lances his boils, amputates those parts where mortification has set in, rebreaks bones previously improperly set by the patient himself, or when he cauterizes the proud flesh of his sores: let him not suppose that he will give no bitter medicines. To be a Good Physician and a Great Physician means that he will cause no needless pain; but it also implies that he will spare no pains to make the treatment effective to the patient's recovery to perfect health.
And so with Christ's rule and Kingdom: it will first of all lay bare, and cut, and scrape, the evils of selfish society, down to the very bone, exposing depths of corruption never before [R1692 : page 265] realized by the patient; and it will be a fearful ordeal--"a time of trouble such as was not since there was a nation." The patient (the world) will suffer and groan, and for a time prefer the disease to the cure, and seek to be released, but he will be helpless, bound hand and foot; and the exposition and eradication of selfishness must progress until the patient shall have fully realized the sinfulness of sin and the selfishness of selfishness. Then the balms and ointments of love and righteousness will be applied; and although they will smart, they will begin to heal and strengthen. Then the cooling, refreshing, "peaceable fruits of righteousness" will begin to be relished, and the patient will soon be on the way to recovery and prepared for the stronger meat of knowledge of God's perfect will.
Yes, the coming of the King of Earth means much of trouble and a general overturning of the Kingdoms of this world, which, although nominally kingdoms of God, are really under the control of the prince of this world--Satan --who now worketh in the hearts of the children of disobedience. (Eph. 2:2.) It means the shaking of society in a manner and to an extent it was never before shaken, and so thoroughly that another shaking will never be necessary. (Heb. 12:26,27.) It means the breaking in pieces of the Kingdoms of earth as a potter's vessel. (Isa. 30:12-15; Psa. 2:9; Rev. 2:27.) It means the shaking and final passing away of the present ecclesiastical heavens, and the fall of many of its bright ones (stars), and the temporary obscuring of the true sunlight of the gospel and the moonlight of the Jewish law by the thick clouds of worldly wisdom. It means tumult and raging amongst the waves of the sea (the masses of mankind in anarchy). It means the shaking of all the mountains (kingdoms); and the melting of some to the level of the people (socialism); and the carrying of others into the sea (revolution and anarchy).
But while many would rejoice to see enemies bound and society relieved of many of its selfish, life-sapping ulcers, they seem to realize that so just and impartial a Judge and law might cut off some of their long-cherished sins, and might pain them by touching some of their personal selfishness. And they are right: He will bring to light all the hidden things of darkness, and correct private as well as public sin and selfishness. He will lay justice to the line, and righteousness to the plummet, and the hail [hard truths] shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters [of truth] shall overflow the hiding places [of error].--Isa. 28:17. "BUT WHO MAY ABIDE THE DAY OF HIS COMING? AND WHO SHALL STAND WHEN HE APPEARETH?"--MAL. 3:2.
The coming of the King will mean a personal, as well as a national and a church examination, judgment and treatment. "Who may abide the day of his coming? And who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fuller's soap." (Mal. 3:2.) It will mean the curtailment of vice to a degree never attempted by any earthly reformer. There will be no license to be or to do evil in any form or degree. The only liberty will be to do right.
Ah! No wonder that so few to-day look and speak for the coming back of the King! To some it would mean the curtailment of present advantages over the remainder of their fellows. To some others it would mean to check their anticipated rising to a point of advantage or preference or honor above their fellows. To others it would mean the curtailment of sins now indulged and enjoyed.
Nevertheless, both the King and the Kingdom --for which the King taught his Church to pray, "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven"--are coming. In fact, they are here; and present troubles in church and state are the results of influences emanating from that King and Kingdom. Though men know it not, it is the smiting by this Kingdom of God that is even now preparing for the wreck of all the kingdoms of earth and the preparation thus of the hearts of men for the true King and his righteous government. Thus it was foretold by the Lord through the prophet.--Dan. 2:34,35.
Worldly men know not of this, because this Kingdom cometh not with outward show or display: because they cannot say, Lo here, or [R1692 : page 266] Lo there, they do not realize it at all. (Matt. 24:23.) But God's children, enlightened by his Word, know that thus it is written, and that [R1693 : page 266] the Day of the Lord will come as a thief and a snare upon the world; and that only God's people, his fully consecrated Church, will be in the light and will not be taken unawares. And many of these have been deceived by looking for the King again in the flesh--forgetting that his only object in becoming flesh was "for the suffering of death" as man's corresponding price; and that, this over now, he is highly exalted, and "dieth no more." They forget that "Though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him [so] no more;" and that we must be changed that we may "see him as he is,"--not as he was. We now know him as the King of glory--the same who was dead, but who is now highly exalted--the same seen by Saul of Tarsus, a spirit being shining above the brightness of the noon-day sun. (See Heb. 2:9; Phil. 2:9; 2 Cor. 5:16; 1 Cor. 15:51; 1 John 3:2; Acts 26:13-15.) Another matter which the Lord has permitted to becloud this subject of the Lord's second coming, so that none except those who hunger and thirst after the truth might know, is the translation of the Greek word, parousia, by the English word, coming, whereas it should be rendered presence; for that is the thought. Note the wide difference in the sense of the following texts where the Greek word parousia should be rendered presence in every instance:--Matt. 24:3,27; 1 Cor. 15:23; 1 Thes. 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thes. 2:1,8; Jas. 5:7,8; 2 Pet. 1:16; 3:4; 1 John 2:28.
True, there is to be an earthly phase or representation of the Kingdom of God, visible to the natural eyes of men, as the spiritual government will be recognized by the eyes of their understanding; but it will be established later, as it is written, Ye shall see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets--all the overcomers of the past--in the Kingdom. (Luke 13:28.) The unseen Kingdom will be Christ and the apostles, and all the faithful overcomers of the Gospel age--the body of Christ.
All that needed to be done to inaugurate the present strife for wealth and power, and to bring the festering sore of selfishness to a head, was to lift the vail and let men see the possibilities surrounding them. The lifting of the vail of ignorance from men's minds is a good thing of itself: only the selfishness of the human heart causes it to bring forth evil fruit. And the evil fruit is only partial and temporary: the sharpening of men's wits, possibly supernaturally as well as by the competitive strife for wealth, is preparing some of the inventions which will be ready for the quicker blessing of the world when the new King and his Millennial Kingdom shall have assumed full control.
But the King of Glory waits to be prayed to come and take control. He will let the various parties and factions of society cut and lance and amputate each others defects and prepare each others physics. But it will all be under the King's eye, and subject to his "all-power." And when all are thoroughly sick, and when he, as the Good Physician, does come in and offer "the balm of Gilead," he and his Kingdom will generally be hailed as "the desire of all nations." (Hag. 2:7.) The Jews will be first: "They shall mourn for him as one mourneth for his only son." And when he shall reveal his presence and Kingdom, they will shout, "Lo! this is our God, we have waited for him, and he will save us." (Zech. 12:10; Isa. 25:9.) Then "many people shall go and say, Come, let us go up to the mountain [kingdom] of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths."--Isa. 2:3.
Surely, those who know that the King and his Kingdom are the only remedy and the best remedy for all the wrongs and woes of men should be pointing the groaning creation to this, rather than to the poultices of their own contriving which can do no real good. Tell them about the Return of the King! Tell them that he is the Great Prophet and Great Priest, as well as the Great King: that as Prophet [Christ, the head, and his Church, the body] he will cause an accurate knowledge of the Lord to fill the whole earth; and that as Priest he will be ready to pardon and succor all who, under that knowledge, shall turn from sin to righteousness. Tell them that his death was the redemption price [R1693 : page 267] for all, and that the return of the King is to bind Satan and set free all of his captives who will accept the liberty of the sons of God under the conditions of the New Covenant.-- Acts 3:22,23; Gal. 3:29; 1 Cor. 6:2."Tell the whole world these blessed tidings;
Speak of the time of rest that nears:
He who was slain on Calvary's mountain
Soon is to reign a thousand years.
"What if the clouds do for a moment
Hide the blue sky where morn appears?
Soon the glad sun of promise given
Rises to shine a thousand years.
"A thousand years! Earth's coming glory!
'Tis the glad day so long foretold;
'Tis the bright morn of Zion's glory,
Prophets foresaw in times of old."
--HYMNS OF DAWN.
FORGIVENESS VERSUS MALICE.
"Forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."--Eph. 4:32.A FORGIVING spirit is a part of the spirit of love, a part of God's spirit, the holy spirit or disposition--the spirit of the truth--inculcated in God's Word. It is thus the opposite or contrary of the spirit of malice, which is a part of the evil spirit or disposition common among men in their fallen condition, the spirit or disposition of the world.
A forgiving spirit is kindred to the spirit of love, joy, peace, meekness, patience, brotherly-kindness, godliness. A malicious spirit is related to anger, back-biting, slander, wrath, jealousy, hatred and all the works of the (fallen) flesh and the devil.
Recognizing these two spirits in the light of God's Word, his people must surely desire and seek more and more to cultivate the forgiving disposition--a spirit of readiness or willingness to forgive, which would rather that the transgressor would penitently turn from his evil way to the way of righteousness, and which would take pleasure in receiving him back into fellowship again under such conditions.
However, on this as upon every question, extreme and unscriptural views are sometimes entertained. Some feel that the most extreme view conceivable must be the right one, because of their desire to get as far away as possible from the unforgiving or malicious spirit. In consequence, some are continually chiding themselves for not being able to forgive those who have not repented, who have not asked forgiveness nor brought forth fruits (evidences) indicating repentance.
This comes of the fall. Human judgments have become defective, so that it sometimes perplexes us to know how and where to draw the lines upon our own hearts and conduct. But here God comes to our rescue. He knows: his mind or judgment and not our own imperfect judgments, therefore, must be our guide or criterion; and his Word expresses to us his mind (spirit or disposition) on this and every subject. If we accept and use it, instead of our own imperfect judgments, we are said to have "the spirit of a sound mind."--2 Tim. 1:7.
Let us study and adopt as our own the spirit of God's sound mind on this subject of forgiveness, casting aside as erroneous whatever our own depraved judgments may have previously accepted. This will be following the instructions of the text at the head of this article, and we will learn to forgive even as God forgives.
(1) Our spirit or disposition to forgive any one should be of the heart prompted by the spirit of love and brotherly kindness. It should not be a forgiveness forced out of us by importunity, nor by the appeals of many, nor by pity for the wrong doers' sufferings or sorrow. It should be there pent up in our hearts, ready to pour forth upon the offender as soon as he repents and gives reasonable evidence of his sincerity. God waits to be gracious, desires to pardon sinners; and such must be our attitude toward those who trespass against us. But God always waits for repentance, and never grants his pardon to those who are unrepentant, nor receives them into fellowship as friends.
True, he loved us while we were yet sinners (John 3:16; Rom. 5:8), and he does good even to the unthankful, giving sunshine and rain and food to all; but that is a pitying love, not a fellowship love, not a communing love: it is the sympathetic love of a benefactor. And we [R1693 : page 268] are to have this pity-love also, even to our enemies. We are to love our enemies, and do good to them that persecute us; but with us, as with God, this can be no more than pity-love: it cannot be fellowship-love, "for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?" Nevertheless, while we can have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but must rather reprove them (Eph. 5:11), we can still have that benevolence of heart which would not permit even an enemy to perish with hunger. "Therefore, if thine enemy hunger, feed him," etc. In so doing we are but imitating our Heavenly Father who is merciful even to the unthankful and despiteful. [R1694 : page 268]
(2) God's readiness or quickness to forgive and receive into fellowship depends upon the amount of light and favor sinned against. To the ignorant, who know not of his character, he sends his children as ambassadors,--evangelists, colporteurs, etc.,--to tell them of his love and his willingness to forgive their sins through Christ. But in proportion as any have tasted of the good Word of God and been made partakers of the holy spirit, etc., and have sinned wilfully against light and knowledge (Heb. 6:4-6; 10:26-31), in that same proportion God is slow to forgive, and will not receive such back into fellowship, except they bring forth works proving their professed repentance to be sincere. And God assures us that there is a degree of wilful sin, against full light and ability, that he will never forgive--"There is a sin unto death, I do not say that ye shall pray for it."--1 John 5:16.
In this, also, we should copy our Father in heaven. We should be very ready to forgive the blunders and errors of either natural or spiritual childhood, and to all the weak and inexperienced, even before they ask we should manifest our willingness to forgive. And with all who trespass against us, our willingness to forgive should be proportionate to the ignorance and lack of wilfulness and malice on the part of the transgressor. Whenever malice, wilfulness and knowledge have been factors in the transgression, it is our duty to be proportionately slow to forgive and to require proportionately longer and stronger proofs of repentance.
But this is as far as we may go. Although we may be able to decide what would be a sin unto death against God (1 John 5:16), we may not decide that any transgression against us is unforgivable; against us there are to be no unpardonable sins. Our imperfect knowledge, as well as our imperfect judgments, forbids such a decision. Hence our Lord said, "If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent, thou shalt forgive him." Peter said, "Lord how oft shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times, but, Until seventy times seven."--Luke 17:3,4; Matt. 18:21,22.
From these scriptures it is evident that some of God's people make the mistake of forgiving transgressors before they repent. It is as much the Lord's command that we rebuke the transgressor, and that we do not forgive until he turns again and repents, as it is his command that we do forgive, from the heart, when he does turn and repent. And if he trespass seventy times seven times he should be rebuked as often (either by word or conduct or both), and should repent in words and turn in conduct just as often.
To require less than this is to disobey our Teacher's instructions and to do injury to the transgressor by giving him lax ideas as to his duty. A lack of strict justice, in this respect, on the part of God's people has often injured their children, whereas a proper exercise of justice with forgiveness on proper grounds would have helped those children the better to understand God's dealings, and would guard them against expecting his favor except upon full repentance; and also against tempting divine mercy by sinning against knowledge.
But while some need to correct their hearts and conduct as above, more, probably, need to guard against an unforgiving spirit. Such should remember that Christ Jesus by the grace of God tasted death for every man--paid the price of every man's natural or inherited imperfections --and consider that if God can accept that ransom price as the full satisfaction [R1694 : page 269] for all except wilful sins or the wilful portion of sins, then we can and should do so also; and all who have God's spirit or disposition will hold wrong-doers responsible for only their wilful share in sins and be ready to forgive and pass over quickly whatever is of Adamic depravity and truly repented of and thereafter shunned.
Let such remember the words, "If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness;" and consider that we who accept our Lord Jesus' sacrifice, as being for the sins of the whole world, must also, if we would be faithful and just, forgive those who trespass against us, if they confess and repent, because Jesus paid all of their debts, to us as well as to God.
Justice, therefore, demands of all who trust in the merit of Christ's sacrifice as the ground of their own forgiveness, that they recognize the same precious blood as the covering of all Adamic weaknesses when repented of. And hence the Lord assures us that unless we forgive those who trespass against us (when they repent), neither will he forgive us when we repent.
Moreover, our forgiveness must be from the heart (Matt. 18:35)--not a lip forgiveness and a heart hatred. The forgiven one may be held at a distance for a time to prove the sincerity of his repentance; but just as soon as we have good cause to believe him sincere we must be prompt and hearty in our forgiveness--as a heart with a forgiving spirit or desire will always be glad to do. But, even then, although fully and heartily forgiven, we may not put such a one into a place of the same responsibility as the one from which he fell until we have seen a stronger and truer character developed in him. And this would not imply a lack of full forgiveness, but merely a proper caution--not only for our own protection, but also for the good of the one who transgressed and his protection from too strong a temptation of same kind.
We find no mention in the Scriptures of forgiving on God's part without the requirement of repentance. The passage which reads, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34), might be considered to refer to a pardon without repentance; but we remark that these words are not found in the oldest Greek MSS.--the Sinaitic and Vatican.
A passage frequently misunderstood is:
"If thou comest to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee, leave there thy gift and first go and be reconciled to [or make amends to] thy brother, and then come and offer thy gifts."-- Matt. 5:23,24.
It should be noted that the one addressed is not the brother trespassed against, but the trespassing brother. He must leave the offering of his gift or prayer, until he has made amends to his brother for the wrong he is conscious of having done him, in word or deed. Not until then will his offering be acceptable to God.
STUDIES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT. --INTERNATIONAL S.S. LESSONS.--
SUGGESTIVE THOUGHTS DESIGNED TO ASSIST THOSE OF OUR READERS WHO ATTEND BIBLE CLASSES WHERE THESE LESSONS ARE USED; THAT THEY MAY BE ENABLED TO LEAD OTHERS INTO THE FULNESS OF THE GOSPEL.
THE FIRST DISCIPLES OF JESUS.
III. QUAR., LESSON VIII., AUG. 19, JOHN 1:35-49.
Golden Text--"We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ."--John 1:41.
These were among the first disciples* of the Lord, and, being attentive hearers and believers on him, they received a special call to follow him, both as learners and assistants in his ministry. And having obeyed this call they were afterward formally ordained as apostles and in due time endued with favor from on high and with authority as apostles of the gospel dispensation.
*For a full treatment of the subject of this lesson see our issue of May 1, 93--"The Twelve Apostles, Their Calling, Office and Authority."
In addition to the review of the above subject, which we trust all will notice, it is also interesting to note several other features in the narrative before us.
(1) Observe the humility and self-abnegation of John in pointing out his cousin according to the flesh as "The Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world," --the long-looked-for Messiah, whose rising popularity must soon eclipse his own. John had no ambition to be greatest, but esteemed it a privilege and honor to be simply--"a voice crying in the wilderness, Make straight in the desert a highway for our God." And when some of John's disciples came to him, evidently expecting to find in him some of the spirit of rivalry, saying, "Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold the same baptizeth, and all men come to him, John answered and said, A [R1694 : page 270] man can receive nothing except it be given him from heaven. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom, but the friend of the bridegroom which standeth and heareth him rejoiceth greatly, because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He [as the light] must increase, but I must decrease."--John 3:26-36.
And when a deputation of priests and Levites came from Jerusalem to ask him-- "Who art thou? he confessed,...I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?"-- what a temptation there was here to claim to be some great one and to exalt himself in the estimation of his fellow-men. But there was no sign in him of self-exaltation. He said, "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the Prophet Esaias.... I baptize with water, but there standeth one among you whom you know not; he it is who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose." [R1695 : page 270]
How beautifully this grace of humility and self-abnegation shines in the characters of those ancient worthies whom the Lord was preparing for the earthly phase of his Kingdom. And verily, said Jesus, "among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist." (Matt. 11:11.) Well have the apostles Paul and James directed those who are called to share in the spiritual phase of the Kingdom to the patient, humble faithfulness of the ancient worthies (Jas. 5:10; Heb. 11), as examples for our imitation.
VERSES 29-37 show how deliberately John turned his disciples over to Jesus. Previous to his baptism John knew Jesus only as his cousin. The spirit of God had directed him to baptize with water and to proclaim the coming Messiah; but he testifies that he knew not who it would be until he saw the promised sign fulfilled in the descent of the holy spirit upon his humble cousin, Jesus.
To a proud or ambitious mind familiar acquaintance or relationship is generally more conducive to a spirit of rivalry; but it was not so with John. He was ready at once to exclaim in the presence of his disciples, "Behold the Lamb of God!"
(2) Next we note the manner in which the several disciples here named recognized Jesus as the Messiah. John had specially drawn attention to the prophecies concerning him, and by his correspondencies with those prophesies they recognized him, saying, "We have found him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." They, in common with others, supposed him to be the son of Joseph, the mystery of his incarnation evidently not being generally known at that time.
The law and the prophets and his works were God's witnesses of Christ at his first advent; and to the same testimony we are referred for the evidences of his second advent.* In addition to the testimony of the law and the prophets these early disciples were invited to "Come and see" for themselves, that the power and wisdom of Jehovah rested upon his Anointed. And they came and saw, not only that the spirit of holiness and grace was in him, but also that the power of discerning of spirits (of reading the thoughts and intents of the hearts) and of working miracles was granted to him. (Verses 47,48.) Thus God ratified the testimony of his holy prophets, and fully convinced those who were Israelites indeed and in whom was no guile. Later the same gifts--of miracles, discerning of spirits, healings, prophecy, etc., were granted to the Apostles, and for the same purpose.--Heb. 2:3,4; 1 Cor. 12:1,4,8-11.
*See M. DAWN, VOL. II., Chaps. 3,4.
[R1695 : page 270]
OUR LORD'S FIRST MIRACLE.
III. QUAR., LESSON IX., AUG. 26, JOHN 2:1-11.
Golden Text--"This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory."
The golden text of this lesson suggests its import: this beginning of Christ's miracles manifested forth or typified the glory of his coming Kingdom and power. The circumstance of our Lord providing wine for a festive occasion, and that, too, by the performance of a miracle, as if to emphasize the propriety of its use on such occasions, is quite a difficulty in the way of advocates of total abstinence, and quite an argument in the mouths of those who favor the use of wine as a beverage. But both the difficulty and the argument disappear before a [R1695 : page 272] clear conception of the object of the miracle.
Calling to mind Matt. 26:29--that our Lord would no more drink of the fruit of the vine with his disciples until he should drink it new with them in the Kingdom; and also the prophecy of Isaiah 25:6, "In this mountain [the kingdom of God] shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things,...of wines on the lees well refined"--we recognize in the exhilarating wine an apt symbol of joy and gladness. To partake of the cup of the Lord in the present time signifies to share in his sufferings, humiliation and death; but to partake of his cup in the coming age will mean to share in his glory and joy. That will be the new wine in the Kingdom.
The first miracle was given to symbolize this ultimate object of the work upon which he was then entering, which was to glorify his Church and then to spread a feast of fat things (of rich blessings) and of wine (of joy) before all people. How appropriate that such a foreshadowing of future glory should be the first of his wonderful works.
In observing the typical features of the miracle we notice, (1) That its performance was on the occasion of a wedding, following the wedding ceremony. So the joy and blessings of Christ's Kingdom, both to the Church, his bride, and also to the world, will follow the marriage of the Lamb and his espoused virgin Church.
(2) Next we notice that this typical marriage was on "the third day" (verse 1), reminding us very forcibly of our Lord's statement to some of the Pharisees (Luke 13:32): "Go ye and tell that fox [Herod], Behold I cast out devils and I do cures to-day and to-morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected; "and again (John 2:19,21,) "Destroy this temple ["the temple of his body"--the Church], and in three days I will raise it up." The three days here referred to were days of a thousand years each--the fifth, sixth and seventh thousand-year-days from creation. Jesus then lived in the fifth; and now, in the dawning of the seventh, his body will be "perfected" and "raised up" to kingdom power and glory. The marriage of the Lamb will be in the third day of her existence as the body of Christ, and in the seventh of the world's history.
(3) We notice that the miracle consisted in the turning of the water in the vessels for purification into the desirable beverage, the "good wine." Water is a symbol of truth (Eph. 5:26), the use of which is for refreshing and cleansing the Lord's people; and it is through this very cleansing agency that the Church is to be glorified and the world blessed. Divine truth, having by its blessed inspiration to godliness and holiness, accomplished its cleansing purifying work, will be gloriously realized in the blessings and joys of the Kingdom.
(4) The Lord's reply to Mary, who informed him of the lack of wine, is also significant. "Jesus said to her, What [is that] to me and to thee, O woman? Mine hour has not yet come." (Verse 4--Diaglott.) The "woman," the Church, need not yet inquire for the new wine of joy. The hour for exaltation and glory has not yet come, and as yet we have to do only with the dregs of the cup of humiliation and sacrifice. And if we partake of this cup now we will surely drink the new wine with him in the Kingdom. Let us take the advice of Mary-- "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it," and in due time faithful obedience to all his directions will be amply rewarded by the privilege of participating with him in the joys of the Kingdom, the "new wine." And following that will come for all people the feast of fat things and of wines on the lees.
By the early disciples this typical significance could not have been discerned; but they did see in the power that could work such a miracle the evidence of his claim to be the Son of God, while to us in the light of the dawning Millennial day the finer lines of type and prophecy are due to be understood and are clearly manifest.
The occurrence has no more bearing on the temperance question than had the taking of a colt to fulfill the prophecy of Zech. 9:9 (Matt. 21:1-5) a bearing on the question of the rights of private property. All things belong to God and have their legitimate and illegitimate uses. Under the rule which Paul gives (1 Cor. 8:13), the disuse of wine as a beverage is certainly commendable under present conditions, while its limited use for medicinal purposes is warranted by 1 Tim. 5:23. [R1695 : page 271]
JESUS CLEANSING THE TEMPLE.
III. QUAR., LESSON X., SEPT. 2, JOHN 2:13-25.
Golden Text--"Make not my Father's house a house of merchandise."--John 2:16.
The several accounts of this action of our Lord by the other evangelists place the occurrence [R1695 : page 272] unmistakably near the close of his ministry, while John here mentions it in connection with events at the beginning of his public work. It would appear, however, that the one event was referred to by them all, the last verse of John's account, like the others, showing the hostile attitude of numerous opponents who sought his life, which disposition did not make its appearance in the very beginning of his ministry.
This authoritative action of Jesus had a peculiar fitness as a type near the close of his ministry. It immediately followed his triumphant entry into Jerusalem in fulfilment of the prophecy--"Behold thy king cometh unto thee, etc." (Zech. 9:9); and this course in the temple was an assumption of authority consequent upon this rightful claim to be the king of Israel--a claim, however, which was rejected by the Jews. "He [R1696 : page 272] came unto his own [people], and his own received him not." (John 1:11.) Then, seeing they put away the favor of God from them and proved themselves unworthy of it, he turned to the Gentiles to take out of them a people for his name, which selection has required the eighteen centuries of the Gospel age; and that fleshly house of Israel and this spiritual house, the Gospel Church, stand related to each other as type and antitype; both as to circumstances and time. As an event shortly preceding his crucifixion, this cleansing of the temple finds its antitype in a similar work here, beginning at the corresponding date--1878 (See M. DAWN, VOL. II., page 239); viz., the casting out (from the spiritual temple--his body, the consecrated Church) of such as are unworthy to be of that body, while the worthy ones, the pure in heart, are being correspondingly blessed.
The scourge of small cords was a fit emblem of the harmonious doctrines of Christ, which are accomplishing the cleansing work here.
When asked for a sign of the authority by which he did these things, Jesus pointed forward to his future power--after his death and resurrection. (Verses 18-21.) He had no authority to begin the actual work then; that which he did being only typical, and for our profiting, not theirs.
VERSES 23-25 (Diaglott). Though the people at this time seemed greatly impressed by his miracles, and, shouting Hosanna! before him, seemed ready to accept him as the Messiah and to proclaim him king at once (See also Matt. 21:9-11), Jesus did not trust them; for he knew the fickleness of their hearts, and having the gift also of discerning of spirits, he needed not that any man should testify of them, for he knew what was in them.--Luke 20:41-47.
The Golden Text--"Make not my Father's house a house of merchandise"--should have the most careful consideration of all those who profess to be of his consecrated house,--the true temple. In this time of cleansing, sifting and purifying of the temple of God, none will be permitted to remain in it whose purpose is in any way to make merchandise of God's holy things. [R1696 : page 272]
JESUS AND NICODEMUS.
III. QUAR., LESSON XI., SEPT. 9, JOHN 3:1-16.
Golden Text--"God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."--John 3:16.
For a consideration of this interview between the Lord and Nicodemus, see M. DAWN, VOL. I., Chap. xiv. In connection with Verse 13 see Acts 2:34 and 2 Tim. 4:8.
VERSES 14-15. The reference here is to the circumstance recorded in Num. 21:4-9, when the bite of a fiery serpent was cured by a look at the brazen serpent which Moses raised up. The fiery serpents here represented Sin, from whose deadly bite all humanity is suffering. But Christ, who knew no sin, was made a sin-offering on our behalf, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Cor. 5:21--Diaglott.) He is the antitype of the brazen serpent. The lifting up of the serpent in the wilderness prefigured the lifting up of Christ on the cross of Calvary; and the look of faith to him and the merit of his sacrifice for salvation is the never-failing cure for sin, as it is also the only hope of our fallen race.
VERSE 16 suggests the cost of the world's salvation to our Heavenly Father. His only begotten Son was the delight and treasure of his heart; and all the painful process of his humiliation and sacrifice even unto an ignominious and cruel death were at the expense of the fondest affection of him who loves as never man loved. With the assurance of this example of divine love for our race, the Apostle Paul (Rom. 8:31-39) would further encourage our faith, saying, "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? If God be for us, who can be against us?"
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