VOL. XXI December, 1938 No. 12
"When ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the Kingdom of God is nigh at hand." - Luke 21:31.
IT IS with heavy heart that one reads the record of human misery and suffering in various parts of the world as presented daily by the press. St. Paul's words come forcibly to mind: "For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the deliverance of our body." (Rom. 8:22, 23.)- And surely all true Christians can the more earnestly pray for the establishment of that Kingdom which shall bring peace to sin-sick and distressed humanity and the solution to all the problems now harrowing mankind, when "nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." - Isa. 2:4.
The approach of the season when men's thoughts turn anew to contemplation of Him whose birth in Bethlehem was announced by angels, heightens by contrast "man's inhumanity to man," and from Him who taught love for one's fellowman, come also the words (the principle of conduct during His Messianic reign), "Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these My brethren, ye did it not to Me."
War and Desolation
In the quiet of one's home, in surroundings of peaceful comfort, it is difficult for us to fully realize the sufferings of flesh and blood in other parts of the world, which, were we to actually witness, would horrify and sicken us. It is difficult for the mind to transport itself to scenes as described in cold print, but we will quote some news items in point. The first is from the Oregon Journal:
"Canton, metropolis of southern China, has a population almost as great as the entire state of Oregon. When the Japanese machine -- gunned and bombed their way to the city, all but 1.00,000 who attempted defense, fled. The rest, as the colorless phrase has it, 'were evacuated.' It would be bad enough to evacuate an American community to comparable size, such as the San Francisco area. In that case, of course, there would be a rich nation behind, supplying funds, with plenty of roads, railroads and ships. In the back country there would be food enough, which the fugitives would have money to buy. But the Chinese of Canton have little in the way of transportation, little to buy with, no' rich central government to provide them with funds, and no surplus of food in the hinterland where they have taken refuge. From such a summary of facts the world must be left to picture for itself the dreary and dreadful plight of these hundreds of thousands -- their hunger and fear and bewilderment. And Canton is but one city. Many other cities have been evacuated in the Yangtze Valley before the Japanese arrival, and the civilian populations have fled to a countryside already swept clean by the Chinese armies. It is misery unspeakable."
And who can adequately portray the sufferings of the millions of refugees that now fill the Chinese hinterland. Ten months of frightfulness, of which the outside world is but dimly conscious, has resulted among the combatants alone, in the death of some 450,000 Japanese and some 1,400,000 Chinese soldiers. Cities and villages by thousands are now in ruins. Starving plagues of human beings sweep the back country, all young adults, the very old and young having long since died. And the systematic airplane bombing of helpless civilians in cities continues.
Nation-wide Roundup of Polish Jews
But this dark picture does not fade beyond China's borders. Spain with its long drawn out civil struggle, has contributed its share to the sum of human misery. So have the beleaguered minorities scattered throughout Europe and elsewhere: One item, and that, as it concerns the hard-pressed Jewish people, will suffice. It is taken from, the Philadelphia Record and appropriately headed, "And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage." (Exod. 1:14.) We quote:
"Beginning at dawn on Thursday morning, the German police began a nation-wide roundup of Polish Jews. Men and women, old and young, the well and the sick, were routed from their beds, hurried into trucks or trains, allowed to take with them only 10 marks apiece and the clothes they wore. Fifteen Polish Jewish children were taken by police from a Berlin Jewish orphanage to be driven over the border with the rest. At the border, miserable scenes occurred. In Beuthen at first the Polish police refused to allow them to pass, but the Germans with bayonets and rifles ' began mercilessly driving into Poland the mass of crying children, helpless women and exasperated men. German machine-guns were placed in a row along the station as if to impress the refugees that none of them would remain in Reich territory alive. At Zbaszym frontier station a large group, estimated at 1000, was not admitted into Poland for several days. There were many children without parents in this group. They were taken from schools in Berlin and driven directly to the frontier. From Radzionka a birth was reported in a refugee camp. Deportees taken there by road were left in the open fields. Three hours passed before a telephone could be found to ask medical assistance for the mother. When the Polish Government in retaliation began to expel German citizens in Poland, the deportations halted, and one gets a glimpse of scenes like this one-'a tired and bedraggled trainload of 700 Polish Jews returned to Munich late tonight after having been forcibly expelled from their homes early the day before and sent by train to the Polish border for deportation. About two-thirds were men, while the rest were women, including 11 with babies in their arms, and 150 older children. They had been on the train journey leading nowhere about 40 hours.' According to the German Government, the excuse for the infliction of all this misery on people guilty of no crime was that a new Polish law, effective ,October 29th, required them to have their Polish passports validated by Polish consular officials. Berlin said that it feared that under this law it would not be able to send these Jews back to Poland."
The Editor concludes with the words, "We find ourselves too sick at heart for comment." And yet, the above quoted news item represents only a small portion of the sufferings of this unfortunate race. The highways of Europe are clogged with the persecuted refugees. The indignities heaped upon the Jews in Germany and in Austria repudiate progress and humanity. The black tide of anti-Semitism blots out the precepts of civilization. And it rolls on. It has touched with its horror the German acquired portions of Czechoslovakia. It turns life into nightmares for its victims. Even their efforts to establish a national homeland in Palestine, a last resort in the face of doors in every nation being barred to them, is meeting with so much opposition that they are now well nigh desperate. Seeking to return to the land again promised them by the Balfour Declaration, they have invested half a billion dollars in Palestine, two-fifths of the amount coming from the United States. They have gone into the desert and performed, with water and cultivation, the miracle of blossom and fruit. They have transformed sterility into abundance, and the waste places into beauty. They have lighted a ray of hope in hearts otherwise desolate. And the cold rapacious cruelty that would destroy the effort to salvage the remnants of a great race is against every principle of honor and justice. Surely they have borne their meed of suffering through the ages, and in them has been fulfilled the unpropitious auguries of their Prophet, Moses, three thousand three hundred years ago as recorded in Deuteronomy, the 28th chapter. But there is hope for Israel. "And the Lord thy God will bring thee unto the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and He will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers." - Deut. 30:5. See also Isa. 11:11, 12; 60:9, 10; Jer. 31:37; Ezek. 36:8, 10-24; 37:21; Amos 9:13-15.
An Appeal to Christianity
Sir George Paish of London, adviser to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the British treasury, uttered some solemn words recently. We quote from the Chicago Daily News:
"As events are rapidly moving today, nations are threatened with a cataclysm. We can head it off if we can restore international integrity and idealism through a rebirth of the Christian spirit. We must look at the international situation objectively and without passion. Germany, Japan, and Italy are not doing what they are because they are devils. They are in great distress economically, and necessity is pushing them to the extremes of threats and violence. Looking at matters from their standpoint, they can't help themselves. Yet the fact remains that the further any nation journeys that road, the further along it is toward barbarity. That means not only war and spiritual death, but also poverty, desolation and hunger, through the breakdown of trade, the destruction of capital and the return of Jungle morals. Revolutions are bred in such swamps. The only way to get the world back on the road is to try to understand each other's difficulties and to work out a collective program on the basis of understanding. Here is where the Christian Church comes in. By proclaiming again the principles of tolerance, good will, mutual appreciation and cooperative action, it can create the spirit by which the nations can get together for the good of all. But if Christianity fails in this crisis, through the failure of its proponents to speak with divine authority, then we are doomed. Man has utterly failed in his own strength to make the grade."
With much sympathy do we read Sir George's words and yet we know from Scripture that his appeal is in vain, that only He who is the "Desire of all nations" will be able to speak with divine authority, and that in Him alone resides the hope of humanity. The present ecclesiastical heavens must pass away, but their passing will not mean the doom of mankind, though it may seem so at the time, but will make way for the new heavens and the new earth "wherein dwelleth righteousness." And then Enoch's prophecy will be fulfilled: "Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment upon all." - Jude 14.
"This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." - 1 Tim. 1:15.
IN A RECENT issue of this journal* we endeavored to show that the Scriptures of the New Testament yield indisputable proof that in the early Church there was a remarkable outpouring of the prophetic activity which had seemed to come to an end with Malachi. In every congregation there were men who possessed 'the "gift of prophecy"; men in whom the "spirit of prophecy" bore "testimony to Jesus" that He was the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed of God; men who could foretell "things which must shortly come to pass"; men endowed with so rare a power of reading the heart in the face as to be able to "discern spirits," and to so powerfully apply the truth as it is in Jesus to the various characters and conditions of men that unbelievers who came into the Christian assemblies, "finding the secrets of their hearts made manifest, fell down on their faces, and worshiped God, declaring that God was in them of a truth." - 1 Cor. 13:1; Eph. 4:11; Rev. 19:10; Rev. 1:1; Heb. 5:14; 1 Cor. 14:25.
*See "Herald" for September, page 133.
Side by side with these prophets who spake in the name of the Lord Jesus and by inspiration of His spirit, there stood false prophets who were moved by seducing spirits, and who deceived many. Hence it became necessary, as both St. Paul and St. John discovered, that the spirits of the prophets should be tried, and the words which they professed to speak in the name of the Lord. If any spirit denied that Christ had come in flesh, that spirit was not of God. If any word "gendered contentions" or made light of "good works," if any word were not profitable for instruction or reproof, for correction (or discipline) in righteousness, that word was not of God, even though it fell from a prophet's lips. The Church was "to judge" the prophetic utterances, and to receive only those which were faithful and true. Even the sayings accepted by one church were not necessarily approved by other churches; these, too, would test them in their turn and only as they received the general sanction could they pass into general use. Only when they had received the imprimatur of the whole Church were they held to be not only "faithful," that is, perfectly reliable "sayings," but sayings so true in substance and so happy in form as to be "worthy of all acceptation." But when once they had passed through these tests, and won this wide, if not universal, approval, they were deemed to be so valuable, and of such weighty authority, that in all probability the children, and the converts of the Church were taught to commit them to memory, and were publicly catechized on them, so that they became household words in the "household of faith" -- the axioms and proverbs of the Church, which, if they could be cited on this side of an argument or on that, put an end to all controversy.
Our Lord's Pre-existence Implied
It is to one of these "faithful sayings" that we turn today for a text-the one quoted at the head of this article. And how suitable a "saying" it is for the Christmas season, for it exactly expresses the purpose of our Lord's advent -- the salvation of our lost and dying race.
That "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" is still one of the grandest sayings in the world, for all so simple as it sounds; and there must in very deed have been a divine grace and inspiration on the lips which first uttered it. It is only by a sustained effort of imagination that we can in any measure conceive what it was to those on whose waiting and prepared ears it originally fell. But even to us, whose ears are dulled by long use of the words, they grow impressive as we ponder them, taking on added meaning. Is there nothing strange, nothing startling, in the phrase, "Christ Jesus came -- Christ Jesus advented -- into the world"? That could be said of none but Him. For it implies that His coming, His advent, was a conscious and voluntary act, a self-determining effort of His will. It implies His pre-existence on some other plane; it implies that He did not begin to be when He came into this world; nor come, as we come, apart from His own knowledge and choice. Nothing less than the great secret of godliness is in these words, or in the New Testament use of them; the change of nature from spirit to human of the mighty Logos, who at all times was so completely one with the Father, in aim, in thought, in purpose, that when He was here He could truthfully say, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father," and of whom an Apostle could write He was "God manifest in flesh." - John 14:9; 1 Tim. 3:16.
No doubt this saying won wide acceptance in the Church, and was commended as a faithful saying by St. Paul, partly because it contained the confession that Christ Jesus had come in flesh; for thus it met and satisfied the test by which the Apostles had demanded that call spiritual utterances should be tried. Yet surely it was not this alone, this mainly, which commended it to the general heart. Even we value the doctrine of the pre-human existence of Christ, and of His virgin birth, mainly because, holding those truths, we can see and believe that He possessed the ability to become our Savior if He would; mainly because, His willingness being also abundantly attested, we can and do rejoice in Him as our Savior indeed. And therefore we may well believe that the early Church loved and adopted this prophetic saying, not so much for its opening as for its closing words. That "Christ Jesus came into the world" was much; but that He "came into the world to save sinners" -- this was the pathetic surprise, this the mystery of grace, which broke men down into tears of penitence and love and rapture, before which Jew and Gentile fell on their faces and worshiped Him.
He Came to Save
That Jehovah would eventually, "in due time," send a Mighty One into the world to bless, to reward His loyal and obedient servants, was no more than a pious Hebrew would have expected of Him. The great promise to Abraham that in his Seed should all the families 'of the earth be blessed-a promise reiterated and amplified by all the Prophets who followed-assured him of this. That a god, a mighty one, should come into the world to aid and protect those who were specially devoted to his service, or even to gratify his own lust and caprice, was what any Greek would be prepared to expect; for had not his ears buzzed with such fables ever since he had seen the stately forms of his gods towering, in their white marble loveliness, above the altars in street and temple, or listened to the wandering rhapsodists reciting the Homeric strains? But that God, in Christ, should come down into the world not to indulge His preferences and lusts, not to aid and protect His devotees, not even to succor and reward the righteous men who walked in all His ordinances and commandments blameless, but to save sinners, to bless His enemies, to redeem those whom the pious Jew denounced as "this people that is accursed," and the cultivated Greek scorned as "the foolish and wretched herd, debarred from wisdom" -- O this was a marvel beyond all marvels; it was a truth, if indeed it could be true, to break and win all hearts, and to revolutionize the whole structure of human life and thought!
In the early Church, too, not many wise, not many "righteous," were called. It was the foolish and the wicked, the peasant and the slave, sinners of the Jews and sinners of the Gentiles, to whom, for the most part, the Gospel was preached, or preached with vital and saving effect. And what a Gospel it must have been to them, shut out as they had been, from all self-respect and hose; held incapable of wisdom or of goodness, banned and scorned from the cradle to the grave! What a Gospel to learn that the very Son of God has pitied them whom no man pitied, loved them whom all men hated and despised; that He had emptied Himself of His glory, and come down into their low and sorrowful conditions, not to judge and condemn them, but to save them from their sins, infirmities, sorrows, to give them wisdom, to make them righteous, and to restore them to self-respect, to kindle in their hearts the cleansing and illuminating fires of an eternal hope! In a Church composed of men who had been lost but were found, who had been dead in trespasses and sins, but were now alive unto righteousness, and who felt that they owed this wondrous change and transformation, this new life, to Christ alone, is it any marvel that the saying, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners," was held to be a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation; a saying more precious than all the sentences of the wise or all the ethical maxims of the good; a saying which set itself to the music of the joy it inspired, and which deserved to be had in everlasting remembrance?
"The Chief of Sinners-We"
Nay, though it be so simple and familiar, is it not most precious even to us, full of a divine consolation, an unfailing spring of hope? Which of us has not sinned, try ourselves by what standard we will? Which of us, despite our penitence and faith, does not at this moment sorrowfully confess that he is still a sinner, most unworthy of the mercy of God? If any man think otherwise, what need we further proof that he is the most hopeless of sinners? If any man think otherwise, let him listen to one, even St. Paul, whom even he will confess to possess a better title to saintship than himself. Even in St. Paul's writings there is no more humbling and pathetic stroke than the words he appends to this "faithful saying." Although for more than twenty years he had endured the loss of all things for Christ's sake; although he had been, and knew that he had been, more abundant both in labor and in suffering than any other of the Apostles, he cannot say, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners," without adding, "of whom I am chief"! nay, without going on to explain that he, the chief of sinners, has obtained mercy, not for his own sake, not simply that he might be recovered to life and hope, but also that in him, as the greatest of transgressors, "Christ Jesus might show forth the whole of His long-suffering as a pattern for those who should afterward believe on Him' unto life eternal"! And if such an one as Paul-the apostle, the prisoner, the martyr-held himself to be "chief of sinners," which of us must not account himself more sinful than he, and less worthy of eternal life?
Salvation from Death
But what is the extent of the salvation which our Lord came to achieve, and how far has His mission been successful? AM it is in the answer to these questions that we see the superiority of the Gospel over all the various plans and devices of men for the uplift of our race. Not that we would be understood as speaking against any of these. No doubt many, if not all of them, are laudable, at least in their intention. But they are lacking both in scope and power. Their scope is limited to the present life. And even within this limit they are powerless to accomplish much. None of them even pretend to point out a way whereby we may escape death, or for those of our race who have already entered the grave, a way whereby they may be awakened from the sleep of death; while even if they could do this, they would be powerless to strengthen any one to walk in that way. And what end do such plans serve but to blind men's eyes to the truth that they are dead, and that their only true hope lies in the wisdom, power, and grace of that God who raiseth the dead?
Man's first need is not moral philosophy (which may indeed have its place and value afterwards) but a pathway out of the realm of death, and power to enable him to walk in that pathway. And the salvation Jesus came to effect includes both. He is the "Way" out of death. He is also the "Life" which enables those who lay hold of His salvation to walk in that way. Many are the plans for human uplift, but there was only One who ever made or could make, in sincerity, an offer of eternal life. None other has ever truthfully said, "I am the resurrection and the life; He that believeth on Me, though he were dead yet shall he live." But, praise be to God, these wondrous words of life did flow from His 'lips, although they could be said truthfully even by Him only in contemplation of the sacrifice of His life which He was about to make.
Salvation from the Power of Sin
Commencing then, with salvation from the depths, even from death itself, Christ Jesus proceeds to save "to the uttermost." A work of transformation is begun in us. This work is accomplished by a further appeal to our hearts, for while it by no means ignores the intellect, the Gospel of God in Christ Jesus makes its chief appeal, with all the attraction of a personal love, to the heart (the center of the will and affections). - Prov. 4:23.
"It is the heart and not the
That, at least, is the first result in those who "behold Him. But we have this treasure in an earthen vessel, and it is not long before we learn from experience the truth of the Apostle's words "The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would." (Gal. 5:17.) "Here," as Brother Russell has observed, "is the great and continual battle, for although the new will asserts itself and puts the body under and compels its subjection to the new mind, nevertheless, the mortal body, not being actually dead, is continually coming in contact with the world ;and the Adversary and is continually being stimulated by these and reinvigorated with earthly cares, ambitions, methods, strivings, conflicts, and insubordination to the new will. No saint is without experiences of this kind fightings without and within."
"My Peace I Give unto You"
But while our transformation is not instantaneous, but gradual, and progresses more or less rapidly, depending upon the degree of our consecration, and steadfastness in "beholding" Him, it is nevertheless sure, in all whose hearts are right. Little by little, as our gaze is fixed upon Him, the old traits and dispositions which are unlike Him are replaced by His own characteristics. Thus the Living Word (Christ Jesus), operating through the written Word and the Holy Spirit, becomes the Regulator and Transformer of the minds of those who diligently seek Him. Under His powerful influence confusion of thought, perplexities, sinful propensities, self-occupation (a sure breeder of unhappiness and discontent) morbid tendencies, craving for excitement and sensation, evil imaginations, appetites, tastes, inclinations and desires, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God (as He may be known in the person of His Son)-all these are displaced; and a new mind substituted. We come to possess "the mind of Christ." His serene tranquility and repose of mind are actually reproduced in those whom first He redeemed by His precious blood.
This is peace on earth, amongst men of good will, indeed! Alas, those who share this peace, "My peace," are few in . number-in all but a "little flock." Yet faith's vision looks beyond the present tumult and strife with its intermittent "Peace, peace, when there is no peace," to the time now near at hand, when the Master shall speak with authority, rebuking the fierce and angry passions of men as He did the winds and the waves of yore, and bring in everlasting righteousness and peace. In that day the "government shall be upon His shoulder and His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. And of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end." -- Isa. 9:6, 7.
"Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." - Rom. 13:10.
DOES GOD love us who by nature were children of wrath even as others? Is He for us, willing to assist us and to give us credit for every good desire and effort, even though it result in partial or total failure? Yes, the Lord answers: "The Father Himself loveth you." The Apostle adds-If God so loved us, while we were yet sinners, that He gave His Only Begotten Son for our redemption, "shall He not with Him freely give us all things [needful to us in our race for the prize He sets before us in the Gospel] ?" Surely if He loved us while sinners, He loves us still more tenderly now-now that He has adopted us into His family-now that He sees in our hearts an earnest desire to do His will. Let us, then, be of good faith and approach with courage to the throne of the heavenly grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in every time of need. - Heb. 4:16.
The New Creatures are not competent to be judges one of another for two reasons: (1) Few of them fully comprehend and appreciate the divine Law of Love governing all. (2) Evidently few can read their own hearts unerringly; many either judge themselves too severely or too leniently, and, hence, should modestly decline to sit in judgment of the heart of another whose motives, may be far from appreciated. It is because of our incompetence for judging that the Lord--awhile assuring us that this shall be one of our future functions in the Kingdom, after being qualified by participation in the First Resurrection-forbids all private judgment amongst His followers now; and threatens them that if they persist in judging each other they must expect no more mercy and leniency than they show to others. (Matt. 7:2; Luke 6:38.) The same thought is enforced in the sample prayer given us, "Forgive us our debts [trespasses] as we forgive our debtors." - Matt. 6:12.
This is not an arbitrary ruling by which the Lord will deal unjustly and ungenerously with us, if we deal thus with others: on the contrary, a correct principle is involved. We are "by nature children of wrath," "vessels fitted for destruction"; and although the Lord mercifully proposes to bless us and relieve us of our sins and weaknesses and to perfect us through our Redeemer, He will do this only on condition of our acceptance of His Law of Love, and our heart-conformity to it. He does not propose accepting unregenerates and having "children of wrath" in His family. To be fit for any place in the Father's house of many mansions (planes of being) (John 14:2) all must cease to be children of wrath and become children of Love; being changed from glory to glory by the Spirit of our Lord, the spirit of Love. Whoever, therefore, refuses to develop the spirit of Love, and contrary to it insists on uncharitably judging fellowdisciples, proves that he is not growing in knowledge and grace, not being changed from glory to glory of heart-likeness to the Lord, not a true follower of the Lord, and, hence, should not have mercy extended to him beyond what he uses properly in copying his Lord. The amount of his likeness to the Lord (in love) will be shown by his mercy, and generosity of thought, word, and deed toward his fellows.
Oh, that all the Spirit-begotten ones, the "New Creation," could realize that this spirit of judging (condemning), alas! so common (indeed, almost the "besetting sin" of the Lord's people) measures their lack of the spirit of Love-their lack of the Spirit of Christ-which, totally absent, would prove us "none of His." (Rom. 8:9.) We are persuaded that the more speedily this fact is realized the more speedily will progress the great transformation "from glory to glory," so essential to our ultimate acceptance as members of the New Creation.
But few of the Lord's people realize to what extent they judge others, and that with a harshness which, if applied to them by the Lord, would surely bar them from the Kingdom. We might have feared that, under our Lord's liberal promise that we shall be judged as leniently as we judge others, the tendency would be to too much benevolence, too much mercy, and that "thinketh no evil" might be carried to an extreme. But no! All the forces of our fallen nature are firmly set in the opposite direction. It is more than eighteen centuries since our Lord made this generous proposal to judge us as leniently as we will judge others, and yet, how few could claim much mercy under that promise! It will be profitable for us to examine our proneness to judge others. Let us do so, prayerfully.
The fallen or carnal mind is selfish; and proportionately as it is for self it is against others-disposed to approve or excuse self and to disapprove and condemn others. This is so thoroughly inbred as to be an unconscious habit, as when we wink or breathe. This habit is the more pronounced with advanced education. The mind recognizes higher ideals and standards and forthwith measures every one by these, and, of course, finds something at fault in all. It delights in rehearsing the errors and weaknesses of others, while ignoring its own along the same or other lines, and sometimes, even, hypocritically denouncing the weaknesses of another for the very purpose of hiding its own or giving the impression of superior character along the line in question. Such is the mean, contemptible disposition of the old fallen nature. The new mind, begotten of the Spirit of the Lord, the holy spirit of Love, is in conflict with this old mind of selfishness from the start, under the guidance of the Word of the Lord; under the Law of Love and the Golden Rule, and becomes more and more so as we grow in grace and knowledge. At first all New Creatures are but "babes in Christ" and appreciate the new Law only vaguely; but unless growth is attained and the Law of Love appreciated and measured up to, the great prize will not be won.
The Law of Love says: For shame that the weaknesses and shortcomings of brethren or of others should be exposed before the world; for shame that pity and sympathy did not at once advance to speak a word in their defense, if too late to spread over their faults a mantle of charity to hide them entirely! ... The person without frailties of his own might be to some extent excusable for assuming unbidden of the Lord the position of executioner of justice-taking vengeance on wrongdoers, exposing them, etc.; but we find that our Master, who knew no sin, had so much Love in His heart that He was disposed rather to condone and forgive than to punish and expose and berate. And so it will doubtless be with all begotten of His Spirit: in proportion as they grow up into His likeness they will be the last to pray for vengeance-the last to execute punishments 'by tongue or otherwise, until so commanded by the Great Judge. He now, on the contrary, instructs us, "Judge nothing before the time," and declares, "Vengeance is mine."
Thou shalt Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself
Well has the Apostle delineated the spirit of Love, saying, "Love suffereth long and is kind" to the wrong-doer. "Love envieth not" the success of others, seeks not to detract from their honor nor to pull them back from it. "Love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, and consequently, never seeks to detract from the splendor of others to make self shine by contrast. It "doth not behave itself unbecomingly," immoderately-it has no extreme and selfish desires and avoids extreme methods. Love "seeketh not that which is not her own" -does not covet the honors or wealth or fame of others, but delights to see them blessed,' and would rather add to than detract from these blessings. Love "is not easily provoked," even to render just recompenses, remembering the present distress of the entire race through the fall, it is sympathetic rather than angry. Love "thinketh no evil"; it not only will not invent and imagine evil, but is so disposed to give the benefit of any doubt that "evil surmisings" are foreign to it. (Compare 1 Tim. 6:4.) Love "rejoiceth not with iniquity, but rejoices with the Truth [rightness]"; hence, it would delight to uncover and make known noble words or acts, but would take no pleasure in, but avoid, exposing ignoble words or deeds. Love "covereth all things," as with a mantle of sympathy -- for nothing and nobody is perfect, so as to stand full inspection. Love anticipates and has her mantle of benevolence always ready. Love "believes all things" -- is not disposed to dispute claims of good intention, but rather to accept them. Love "hopes all things," disputing the thought of total depravity so long as possible. Love "endures all things"; it is impossible to fit a limit where it would refuse the truly repentant one. "Love never faileth." Other graces and gifts may serve their purposes and pass away; but Love is so elemental that, attained, it may always be ours-throughout eternity. Love is the principle thing. - 1 Cor. 13:4-13.
But if to tell uncomplimentary truth is to violate the Law of Love and the Golden Rule, what shall we say of the still more disreputable, still more unlovely, still more criminal habit so common, not only amongst the worldly and nominally Christian, but also among true Christians -- that of telling about other's disreputable things not positively known to be the truth. Oh shame! shame! that any of the Lord's people should so overlook the Lord's instruction, "Speak evil of no man"; and that any but the merest babes and novices in the Law of Love should so misunderstand its message; that any without the most indubitable proofs at the mouth of two or three witnesses, and then reluctantly, should even believe evil of a brother or a neighbor, much less to repeat it-to slander him upon suspicion or hearsay evidence!
We Should Judge Ourselves
The Golden Rule would surely settle this disposition to "gossip" about others and their affairs. What slanderer wishes to be slandered? What gossip wishes to have his matters and difficulties and weaknesses discussed either publicly or confidentially? The "world" has little else to talk about than gossip and scandal, but the New Creation should preferably be dumb until the love and plan of God have furnished them with the great theme of which the angels sang-"Glory to God in the highest; on earth peace, good will toward men." Then the "words of their mouths and the meditations of. their hearts" will be acceptable to the Lord and a blessing to those with whom they come in contact. - Scripture Studies, Vol. VI.
IN THE beginning of the eighteenth century the religious situation in England presented a sad picture of an established Church frozen into a soul-chilling formality -- a Church which had substituted for the life-giving truths of the Bible a smug moralism -- a Church whose very ministers in private were cynical of much of the teachings of the Word of God, laughing it away as more or less fiction. Reason, with its attendant culture, had arrived, they believed, and so boastful an outlook could find little in common with a humble faith in the Scriptures. As a result the poor stayed away from church and only the class-conscious, gentle-folk attended who believed religion a necessary something to keep the lower classes in order, and so they devoted themselves to the cold formalism of a needed bulwark.
They were brutal in that early eighteenth century. Their games were coarse and unbelievably cruel. Half of all the wheat went into soul destroying gin instead of into their children's bread, for one house in every six was a grog-shop. Drunkenness, swearing and cursing, even amongst the small children, were seen and heard everywhere, and some idea of the heartlessness of the populace may be had from an advertisement which appeared in London in the year 1727. In sum and substance it promised that a mad bull would be dressed up with fireworks and turned loose in the place where games were to be held; a dog also would be decked out-in the same manner; a bear would be let loose at the same time, and a cat would be tied to the bull's tail. Such was the shocking idea of sport held by the people of a nation robbed of its God given right to hear something of His truth by a smug, self-satisfied churchianity.
A Reformer is Born
Into a modest rectory in the town of Epworth in England there was born one day in the year 1703 one more child' to tax to its capacity a nursery already overflowing. This newcomer was the fifteenth child of Samuel and Susannah Wesley, nine of whose children died pat an early age. Infant mortality was high at that time, and all over the land of the Wesleys, as over many other lands there went constantly up the wail of countless Rachels weeping for their children.
Susannah, "Mother of Methodism"
Susannah Wesley, herself the daughter of a clergyman, was one of a family of twenty-five children. Her father seems to have been a man of determined faith, for when confronted with the enforced giving of his unqualified consent to everything in the Book of Common Prayer he, along with many others, gave up his position in the established Church. From him the daughter inherited her strong will to pursue that course which to her seemed right, and such character must have impressed itself in turn upon her own children. "Mother of Methodism" she has been termed, and mother she was of the great preacher and reformer, John, and of Charles, that sweet hymn-writer whose many songs have thrilled Christian hearts from their day to ours.
How insignificant then becomes that long coveted, now realized, privilege of woman's rights embraced in the term "suffrage," beside this greater God given one, of leading the young awakening intellect in holy thought; of teaching small lips to form the lisping prayer -- that blessed privilege of all earth's pious mothers. When the name of Samuel is spoken, there comes to mind the no less reverenced name of Hannah; when on the pages of Christian history we read the name of Augustine, we may see on that same page the lovely name of Monica; in Holy Writ we behold the Babe of Bethlehem, mother wrapped in swaddling garments, and Mary bending over the Life transferred from heaven to earth, whose baby steps she had been chosen from above to guide. Blessed amongst all women the heavenly messenger had declared her to be, and in a lesser sense have been blessed all women who have handed to a needful world a son or daughter whose teaching and example should leave behind a hallowing effect on frail humanity.
"As self-will," said Susannah, "is the root of all sin and misery, so whatever cherishes this in children insures their after-wretchedness and irreligion; whatever checks and mortifies it, promotes their future happiness and piety. This is still more evident if we farther consider that religion is nothing less than the doing of the will of God, and not our own: that the one grand impediment to our temporal and eternal happiness being this self-will, no indulgences of it can be trivial, no denial unprofitable."
If we, then, living in an age when self-will and self-expression have been the key-note in the raising of the child, seem to doubt the wisdom of so hard a saying, let the lives of John and Charles Wesley, 'those sons who later in life rose up and called her blessed, give testimony. "Train up a child in the way he should go," runs a proverb in Israel, "and he will not depart from it and "provoke not your children to wrath," declares Paul in Ephesians, "but bring them up in the discipline and admonition of the Lord." All this the mother of the Wesleys did, and the Christian world is the richer and better because of it. And so the small children of the Epworth parsonage were in the words of the mother, "When turned a year old (and some before), . . . taught to cry softly; by which means they escaped abundance of correction they might otherwise have had; and that most odious sound of the crying of children was rarely heard in the house; but the family usually lived in as much quietness as if there had not been a child among them." So wrote Susannah to John who had requested her in a letter to set down those rules by which she had raised her family and to send them to him, he being at this time, though illustrious in presence and voice throughout England, still but the admiring and grateful son.
She also tells him how at the age of five they were all taught to read, only one day being allowed them wherein to learn their letters. Samuel, the eldest, learned his "in a few hours," and then began to read the first chapter of Genesis; "He read continually," says the mother, "and had such prodigious memory, that I cannot remember ever to have told him the same word twice." Continuing, she says "I take such a proportion of time as I can spare every night to discourse with each child apart. On Monday, I talk with Molly; on Tuesday with Hetty; Wednesday with Nancy; Thursday with Jacky; Friday with Patty; Saturday with Charles; and with Emily and Suky together on Sunday." For she reasons, "Though I am not a man nor a minister, yet if my heart were sincerely devoted to God, and I was inspired with a true zeal for His glory, I might do somewhat more than I do. I thought I might pray more for them (that is, for others), and might speak to those with whom I converse with more warmth of affection. I resolved to begin with my own children."
The Burning of Epworth Parsonage
The first and by no means the least impressive happening of John Wesley's life came when he was but six years of age. The home at Epworth burned and the young boy nearly burned with it. He had been left asleep on, the second floor and the stairs were aflame when, as they counted the children assembled on the lawn, he was not found among them. But the lad had awakened and mounting a chest appeared at the window, from which he was rescued by the means of one neighbor standing on the shoulders of another to reach him. So profound an impression was made by the incident on the heart of the- mother that- that very day she made this entry in her diary
"Son John. What shall I render to the Lord for all His mercies? I would offer myself and all that Thou hast given me; and I would resolve -- O, give me grace to do it! -- that the residue of my life shall all be devoted to Thy service. And I do intend to be more particularly careful with the soul of this child, that Thou hast so mercifully provided for, than I have ever been; that .1 may instill in his mind the principles of true religion and virtue. Lord, give me grace to do it sincerely and prudently."
Surely reward for such heart-consecration to God, -and for "the work" of her hands, Susannah Wesley must have found as she viewed the life and labors of her son John; for Augustine Birrell has said: "No single figure influenced so many minds, no single voice touched so many hearts. No other man did such a life's work for England."
Sails for America
In the fall of 1735 John and Charles Wesley sailed for America, not, as John remarks in his diary, for "dross of riches or honor, but to save our souls and live wholly to the glory of God." For John Wesley with all his singleness of purpose, gathering around himself as he had at Oxford a group of students committed to holy living with set rules for daily walk and conduct, had as yet not reached that peace of mind, that rest in God, that becomes the blessed portion of all those who deeply sense all that lies in the words: "By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves." What better course could he pursue, he questioned, to save his own soul than to save the souls of many others, and what better place than the new land? What more virgin soil for the sowing of the good seed than the simple, primitive hearts of the Indian?
Storms came on that ocean voyage and Wesley found himself panic-stricken with fear. Much ashamed of his unwillingness to die, he exclaims in his diary, "O, how pure in heart must he be who would rejoice to appear before God at a minute's warning." He had noticed however the reaction of a group of Germans on board, some, twenty-six in number, Moravians, who were in the midst of a religious service when the third storm broke violently over the boat, splitting the mainsail in pieces and threatening at any moment to swallow them up. Amongst the screaming of the others their singing of the German psalm went calmly on. "Were you not afraid?" asked Wesley afterwards of one of them. "I thank God, No," was the answer. "But were your women and children not afraid?" still questioned Wesley. "No; our women and children are not afraid to die," replied the Moravian. The English preacher had before this noticed their daily behavior, their quiet seriousness, their humility in performing the most servile tasks for the other passengers while refusing any pay, tasks which none of the English on board would undertake. It was good for their proud hearts they insisted-their loving Savior had done more for them. Wesley makes note in his diary that they showed neither "pride, anger, nor revenge," evidencing at all times a meekness that no injury could move.
Later on, after he had left America for England, disappointed and hindered as he had been in his desired work among the Indians, frightened again by rough seas on the return voyage until he exclaims in self-depreciation: "I went to America to convert the Indians; but O! who shall convert me? Who, what is he that will deliver me from this evil heart of mischief? . . . Let death look me in the face, and my spirit is troubled. Nor can I say, 'To die is gain."' He, through a great Moravian, Peter Bohler, "in the hands of the great God," was convinced of unbelief, "of the want of that faith whereby alone we are saved." Peter Bohler had said, "Acknowledge as vile every deed of yours, every trait you have held virtuous, and pray God to pardon you in view solely of Christ's atonement."
Wesley began to preach with all zeal now along the line of "free salvation by faith in the blood of Christ." He mentions preaching in five different churches, and in each one he was told he could preach no more. "I felt," he writes, "I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and staved me from the law of sin and death." He now contrasts the difference between his former state and this: "I was striving, yea, fighting with all my might under the law, as well as under grace. But then I was sometimes, if not often, conquered; now, I was always conqueror."
At this time he met George Whitefield, famous for his Christian eloquence, who had the strange way of preaching in the fields. Wesley, loyal churchman that he really was, would have heretofore considered it almost a sin for souls to be saved except in a church, but he began to remind himself that the Lord's Sermon on the Mount was a remarkable precedent of field-preaching, and there were churches, or their equivalent, in the days of the Master also.
And so to a crowd of a thousand souls in a green meadow John Wesley preached his stirring message of salvation. To the remonstrance of some of his friends, he replied, "You ask how is it I assemble Christians who are none of my charge, to sing psalms, and pray, and hear the Scriptures expounded? . . . Permit me to speak plainly. . . . On Scriptural principles, I do not think it hard to justify whatever I do. God in Scriptures commands me, according to my power, to instruct the ignorant, reform the wicked, confirm the virtuous. Man forbids me to do this in another's parish; that is, in effect, to do it at all; seeing I have no parish of my own, nor probably ever shall. Whom then shall I hear, God or man? I look upon the world as my parish; thus far I mean, that, in whatever part of it I am, I judge it meet, right, and my bounden duty, to declare unto all who are willing to hear, the glad tidings of salvation."
"I look upon the whole world as my parish." Standing before the stone tablet that marks the resting place of John and Charles Wesley in impressive and historical Westminster Abbey in London, England, one reads again the ringing words, cut into enduring stone. And the thoughts of some of us may go onward a century of years to another who courageously and firmly, with -all the power of a strong conviction, started forth also to make the world his parish, Charles T. Russell, beloved pastor and enlightening teacher of our own time. Blessed are those servants who give light and truth in due season to the hungry ones who clamor for bread and find no satisfaction in the stones of formalism and established tradition. But a glance through the real work and victories of John Wesley as gleaned from his own journal must be left for our next article.
A Meditatoin in Four Parts on Psalms 120, 121, and 122
Part III -- Psalm 121
"Kept by the power of God through faith." - 1 Peter 1:5
WE TURN now to Psalm 121. Whatever doubt we might have had as to the appropriateness of the previous Psalm, we can have no doubt as to this one. As soon as we read it, it commends itself to us, not more by its tender, tranquil beauty, than by its obvious suitableness to the lips of pilgrims who were going up to Jerusalem. It is the song of a heart rejoicing in its own safety under the watchful eyes of Him who is both the Maker of heaven and earth, and the Keeper of Israel; or perhaps it is the song of a heart urging and persuading itself to a calm, unwavering trust in the sleep less providence of God.
The Psalmist thus reaches the conviction that the Maker of the universe is also the God of Israel, and the God and Keeper of Israel is his personal Keeper. What has he to fear? God is his Keeper, whether he wakes or whether he sleeps; when he is on the march and when he is at rest. He guards him from the scorching heat of the sun by day, and shields him from the brain-disturbing rays of the Oriental moon by night. He is convinced that Jehovah will watch over him with a vigilant care which no form of evil can evade, and no lapse of time exhaust. He is safe from all evil, he says, in verse seven, wherever he goes, whatever he does, for the Lord will keep his going out and his coming in; that is to say, he will be under the divine protection in the whole business and occupation of life; in all the labor to which. he goes forth in the morning and from which he returns in the evening.
This Song very Appropriate to Hebrew Pilgrims
These, as nearly as we can recover them, are the thoughts and emotions which were in the poet's mind when he penned this Psalm. And we can see at a glance how perfectly the Psalm would lend itself to the use of the pilgrims on their way to the annual feasts. In order that they might appear before God, they had to leave their homes and fields, their wives and families, to the care of the Lord. The neighbors, to whose care they might else have committed them, were, most of them, like themselves, going up to Jerusalem; for every male over twelve years of age was commanded to go up to the feasts; and though this command was not strictly enforced, yet the majority of the able bodied men and boys obeyed it; and hence the several districts of the land lay perilously open to the raids of the Arabs or to the incursions of foes.
As the pilgrims remembered those they had left behind them, and the dangers to which they might be exposed in the absence of their natural protectors, with none to defend them but the aged and infirm, we can understand how many anxious and foreboding thoughts would throng upon their minds and how deeply they would feel their need of the protecting care of God. Nor could they fail to feel their need of protection, as for those whom they loved, so also for themselves.
When we, in these days of swift and easy travel, undertake a journey, we rarely pause to think of danger as possibly attending our way. But formerly it was not so. Even in countries such as Great Britain, two or three centuries ago, a journey of a couple hundred miles was attended with such hazards to life and property that many thought it a matter of common prudence to make out their wills before they undertook it; while in the East, two or three thousand years ago, the journey from Galilee to Jerusalem was so beset with perils of storms and perils of wild beasts; perils of robbers and perils of war; perils from aliens and perils from fellow-countrymen, that the Jews who undertook it were compelled to travel in armed caravans for mutual support and defense.
As soon as we recall these facts we understand how profoundly the pilgrims would feel their need of divine protection; we understand how welcome to their lips would be this song which assured them that the unsleeping Jehovah was their Keeper; that by day He would shade them from the smiting heat of the sun; that at night He would guard their camp from wild beasts and wilder men; that He would keep them from evil in every form as they went up to Jerusalem and as they came back; that they need have no fear whether for themselves or for the families they had committed to His care. The Lord would keep them -- keep them now, from this time forth, and even for evermore.
Evening by evening, when they had pitched their tents, and eaten their meal, as they sat at the tent doors watching the stars that rose above the nearest range of hills, we may well suppose they sang this Psalm with heart and voice. We can think of no evening throughout the journey on which it would seem inappropriate. But there must have been one evening on which it would most sweetly commend itself to them; the eve of the day on which their feet were to tread the courts of the Lord's house. When they encamped for the last time in the open country; and saw the hill of Zion rise before them, with the pinnacles of the temple shooting upward toward heaven, the pure marble and fine gold of the sanctuary radiant with hues as rich and clear as those of the clouds above and beyond it; when they marked well the bulwarks, told the towers, considered the palaces of the Mount that was beautiful for situation and the joy of the whole earth, they must have felt that they had at last reached the true Mount of Succor, that God would in very deed send them help from the sanctuary, and bless them out of Zion. As they gazed on the city of the great King, in the palace of which God was known for a refuge; as they lifted up their eyes to this mountain, and cried, "Whence cometh our help?" with what joyful pride and confidence would they thunder out the response: "Our help cometh from the Lord, the Keeper of Israel-Maker of heaven and earth."
The Song Equally Appropriate to Christian Pilgrims
We have seen, or tried to see, what thoughts and emotions were in the poet's mind when he composed this Psalm. We have imagined, or tried to imagine, what emotions swelled the hearts of the pilgrims as they chanted the Psalm on their way to Jerusalem. We have only further to inquire: "Has it no message suitable and welcome to us?" Centuries have passed since the caravans went up to Zion. The world in which we live differs widely from the antique Hebrew world. But "one touch of nature makes the whole world kin," and surely there are touches enough of nature in this Psalm which make it as appropriate to us as it was to the Hebrew pilgrims. Which of us is not at times oppressed with care and fear, with the uncertainties of life, with the dangers that lurk even in the happiest conditions, and that may at any moment spring upon us unawares? No man is safe till he takes refuge in God. No man is free from care till he casts his care upon the Lord. And hence it is that, throughout Scripture, we are taught to commit our way unto God, and to wait patiently for Him.
He that sitteth in the pure calm heavens looks down with pity on the world of care and turmoil and excitement which we so often create for ourselves, and virtually says, to us: "My children, why load yourselves with so many burdens hard to be borne? Do your duty, live out your life of consecration, and leave all else to Me; I care for you; I will provide." What a changed world we would find ourselves in, what a changed life it would- be that we would live, could we but trust Him more fully, could we but listen and respond when, fatherly and compassionate, He thus pleads with us. All the hurry, all the fret, all the chafe, would 'be gone out of it-all that wears us out and destroys us before our time. In such a frame of heart and mind faith would firmly trust Him, come what may, as day by day in our morning devotions we resolve it shall.
Faith Can Firmly Trust Him, Come What May
We could do nothing wiser, then, if we are still seeking the rest of faith, than to translate the phrases of this ancient Psalm into the terms of our modern experience, and adopt them as our meditation and prayer. And a man who would thus brood, and argue, and plead with himself, as the Psalmist did in his clay, would be apt, we think, to speak somewhat thus, within himself: "I am beset with cares, night and day; cares for myself and cares for my friends, cares for health physical and mental, cares of business and cares of home, cares about life and cares about death; cares for both body and soul. Where shall I look for help? None can really help me but God. He will help me, if I do but trust Him. And He is the Maker of all things. What can I want, then, that He cannot give? What need I fear when He is my shield? He is not a man, as I am, soon fatigued, soon exhausted. He has worked hitherto and will work. The whole course of human history has manifestly been under His direction and control, and in every age, those who trusted in Him have been content and at peace. Why should I distrust Him then? I will not distrust Him. He will keep me in the perils of the day and in the perils of the night. No form of evil can evade His eye or resist His will. Why should He not keep me from all evil, if He cares for me as He does. When I go down to business, He will keep me, when I come in from it, He will keep me. He will watch over not my body alone, or my physical health, but will guard especially my spirit, that my mind may be in tune with His, that my mind may indeed become more and more the mind that was in Christ Jesus, His dear Son and my Redeemer. No change, no lapse of time, neither death nor life, can separate me from Him, my chief Good -- He who is also the source of all my other good. I will trust in Him. I will rest in Him. I have done with care, and fear and the frets of life, and the dread of death; for I have taken sanctuary in Him, who will be the health of my being, from this time forth, and for evermore."
If we do but rise and settle into the conviction of a tender, fatherly providence that covers our whole life, and extends through all time, we, too, may feel the swell and sacred glow of the Hebrew pilgrims who sang the praise of Jehovah, their Keeper and ours.
"The Milwaukee Bible Students held a one-day convention on Sunday, October 16th, at Dudenhaefer's Hall, beginning with a song service at 9 a. m. Many friends came from nearby cities, including Chicago, Aurora, and Cicero, Ill., and Waukesha, Wis. Approximately one hundred friends attended. Considering that less than a year ago the English Class in Milwaukee numbered but three people, we think we had a remarkable gathering.
"Ten brethren, including Juniors, assisted in the program, and many of the talks' seemed to center around the text of the day, 'The eternal God is thy Refuge.' (Deut. 33:27.) Many good thoughts were presented, to our edification. We were reminded that 'there are three kinds of blessings; the known, the unknown, and the disguised blessings: We were admonished to 'avoid being overcome by the cares of this world,' that while it is our privilege to enjoy many earthly blessings, we should never use them to the gratification of the flesh, but always to the glory of the Lord. Again the all importance of love was impressed upon us -- that we should endeavor 'to keep all thought inside the circle of love.' The Junior Class was addressed in the afternoon by one of the brethren also. As luncheon was served in the hall, an additional measure of fellowship was enjoyed.
"In closing the convention the brother suggested that a convention is not the real proving-ground of the Christian, and we were reminded of how rigid and severe are the tests, and how great is the need of true brotherly love. No one is able to say who is, or who is not, 'in Christ,' but we have the assurance that 'the Lord knoweth them that are His.'
"It was a day of much blessing, and we are looking forward to another convention soon."