VOL. XXVI APRIL 1943 NO.
"Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: over these the second death hath no power; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years." - Rev. 20:6.
THERE are many words which, in addition to their lexicon definition, convey a wealth of meaning that would require pages of a dictionary to express; this is true of the word resurrection.
Resurrection, as generally understood and as defined by Webster, means scarcely more than a return to present conditions from the grave, the ultimate stage of death. The raising of the widow's son, and of Lazarus, and of the daughter of Jairus, are generally considered to be examples of resurrection phenomena, but from the Bible standpoint they were only awakenings. If it be true, as we read in Acts 26:23, that Jesus was the first to rise ("first from the resurrection" - Diaglott) from the dead, then Lazarus did not experience resurrection. - See also 1 Cor. 15:20, 23.
When Jesus called Lazarus from the tomb, it is recorded that "He that was dead came forth." This exampled what will occur to all men, for Jesus Himself says: "The hour cometh, in which all that are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and shall come forth"; but in proof that this does not constitute resurrection, note His words which follow: "They that have done good [come forth] unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto a resurrection of judgment."
The Greek word anastasis, rendered resurrection, signifies "a restanding," and Scripture usage clearly indicates a restoration to Perfection of life and being. Anything short of this comes short of being resurrection.
In order to offer up an acceptable sacrifice for Adam and his race, Jesus had to possess life and perfection as a human being, be holy, harmless, undefiled. Adam, likewise, had possessed life and perfection, but, coming under condemnation because of disobedience, he lost them-both for himself and for his children. Since the fall, therefore, men enter this world under the sentence of death; death operates in them from the moment of begettal until they return to the dust from which man was made-"Dying thou shalt die." It must be apparent, therefore, that the coming forth from the grave does not constitute resurrection, except in the case of those, who, having "done good," are restored to perfection of life and being immediately.
THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS
The resurrection of Jesus must have brought great joy to all the heavenly host. It is recorded that "the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy" when the foundations of the earth were laid; and when Jesus was born, again it is recorded that the heavenly host gave praise and glory to God. It is even said that "there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repents." (Job 38:7; Luke 2:13, 14; 15:7, 10.) Then what must have been the exultation of the heavenly host who, for thirty-three years, had been witnessing the great drama of the Son of God in His work of redemption! His struggle against Satan and the forces of evil must needs be carried through without the least deviation from the course of righteousness; whereas, the opponent, Satan, resorted to every subterfuge and device of which he was capable.
With what intentness of interest, and perhaps trepidation, they must have watched as they saw Him betrayed, ill-treated, falsely accused, scourged, condemned, crucified, forsaken and entombed. It appeared that Satan and the forces of evil had triumphed-that the cause of righteousness and the hope of mankind was lost. It may be that God alone knew what was to occur. Whether this be true or not, those hours of waiting until the dawn of that first day of the week, must have gripped them in a tenseness of emotion that only hallelujahs of praise and thanksgiving could relieve when they witnessed the resurrection of the Son of God.
Those of us old enough to remember the emotional release that occurred when armistice was signed in 1918, can still feel the thrill that possessed us on that occasion; but what was that in comparison with what heaven must have felt over the triumph of Christ?
What assurance it gave that soon, comparatively speaking, all sin, death, and opposition to God's righteous will would cease, and every creature in heaven and earth be heard giving praise and glory to God.
And what did resurrection mean to our Lord? As we can scarcely appreciate the joy that will come to those who are restored to perfection of human life, how can we possibly conceive of the joy which our Lord realized in His resurrection and exaltation to the nature of the Father Himself! What must have been the sentiments of His heart when, in the moment of resurrection, He realized that all that for which He had longed and struggled, was now an assured fact; that never again would His intimate relationship and association with the Father be interrupted: that He had fully justified His Father's confidence in Him; and that now He would be able to carry out His Father's will in every particular? Excepting the Father, as we must in every comparison, only Jesus could know the extent of that joy, for, as yet, there were none to share His glory.
And then, to climax it all, what must the Father Himself have felt when, through resurrection power, He received unto His own bosom His only begotten Son, the dearest treasure of His heart? Has God placed any possibilities of depths of feelings in any of His creatures which He Himself does not possess? Could any father or mother possibly know a joy at birth of an offspring that would compare with that which the Father must have felt when His only begotten Son was born to His own nature and station? We, of course, can not presume to say, but we doubt if any but the Father Himself will ever know the depth of that joy.
RESURRECTION OF JESUS THE BASIS OF HOPE
No other event in all the annals of creation or history can equal in importance and significance the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is true not only as respects man, but as respects the heavenly host, our Lord Himself, and even the Father. Would that we were able to convey in words just a little of what this really did mean.
"Blessed be that God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy, hath begotten us again unto a living hope, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." - 1 Pet. 1:3.
As we search into the depths of the Divine Word, we gradually come to realize that all hope for man was dependent upon the resurrection of Jesus; that had He failed to prove worthy of resurrection, all would have been lost. And as we grow to see beyond our own selfish ends, we are led to comprehend that had Jesus failed in the slightest degree to maintain the perfection that was His as a human being, He would have caused the word and purpose of God to come to naught, His own existence would have ended, Satan would have triumphed, and not one of the heavenly host would have had any assurance of continuing in life.
Ah! but you say, such a failure was not possible; God's word never fails and all His purposes will be performed. Thank God! that is true; for in His wisdom He is able to foreknow just what will occur and to plan accordingly. But the triumph of Jesus over sin and death was not due to the fact that He Himself could not have failed, but rather that His dependence and trust were wholly placed upon God; had He trusted in His own strength He could have failed, but relying upon. the Father, He triumphed gloriously. But does it give us any less cause to praise and honor His name because it was God's power and not His own that enabled Him to overcome? No, we have all the more reason for confidence and rejoicing, knowing that it is because of God's attributes and the manifestation of those attributes in His Son, that we may have full assurance of faith, and so have the peace of mind and heart such an assurance gives.
When Jesus died, His disciples were stunned. They had believed Him to be the Messiah, and were expecting the quick fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies. They had seen Him do many wonderful works, and these had indicated to them that He possessed grace and power beyond any leader or prophet in the history of Israel. They had also seen evidence of His approval with God, and so their hopes ran high for the immediate establishment of the Kingdom of Israel and its pre-eminence over all other kingdoms of earth.
How true it is that preconceived ideas and desires often blind the mind to truth. Jesus had told the disciples that His Kingdom was not of this world, that His present mission was "to seek and to save that which was lost," that He "came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many," that he would "be betrayed," "condemned to death," "crucified, and the third day rise again"; but their minds were so set upon the Kingdom promises, they could not grasp the things He told them of His coming sacrifice; and so when He was crucified, their hopes were shattered. Their feelings in the matter were well expressed by the two on the road to Emmaus: "We hoped that it was He who was about to redeem Israel."
Then, as they became convinced that a great miracle had been wrought and that Jesus had been. resurrected, their hopes were revived. True, He was very different and they hardly knew how to take Him, but they still had the earthly kingdom in mind, and when opportunity offered, they asked Him: "Wilt Thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" Jesus turned their question aside by saying: "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you." They were to tarry at Jerusalem until endued with power from on high, for when the Spirit of Truth should come, it would guide them into all truth, and show them things to come.
When Peter wrote the Epistle in which he gave thanks to God for the renewing of hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, he had long since changed his desire for the earthly kingdom for that much grander hope of a heavenly inheritance and the goal of immortal life in joint-heirship with Christ. This is the goal upon which all true saints have set their hearts. Until Christ came, no one had dreamed that such a hope would ever be set before any of Adam's children; and even today, after nearly two thousand years devoted to the selecting and perfecting of those who are striving to reach the standard required of all who will gain that incomparable reward, none but those who have entered the race for the High Calling of God in Christ Jesus are aware of what has really been taking place.
FIRST IN ORDER AND DEGREE
Our text says: "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: over these the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years."
There are several points here that attract our attention. The indication is, there is more than one resurrection and that the first one is especially desirable. But why? And who is to be thus favored? Since Jesus was the first to be resurrected and in that resurrection was exalted above every name in heaven and earth (the Father excepted) , it follows that His resurrection would be first, both in point of time and in degree of honor and excellence. But does Jesus alone experience this first resurrection? No, our text is couched in plural form-these and they; so it must be a class that partake of this honor.
The preceding verses (Rev. 20:4,5) indicate the class referred to. John says: "I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the Word of God, and which had not worshiped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. . . . This is the first resurrection."
The faithful footstep followers of Jesus who have been invited to forsake all worldly hopes and strive for a heavenly inheritance, constitute the only class that can possibly fulfil this description. Paul says: "If we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in that of His resurrection." (Rom. 6:5, Diaglott.) We have all been "called in the one hope of our calling," and, as showing how greatly this hope is to be prized, Paul says (Phil. 3:7-11): "What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead."
Paul was well situated as respects the things desirable to men; but, having had a glimpse of the first resurrection hope, all these were cast aside as of being of no value in comparison. And not only this, but he was willing to undergo any disgrace, or persecution or suffering, and to count them but "light afflictions endured but for a moment," so great was the prospect to be attained in that "far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."
These Scriptures make it clear that it is only the faithful of the called and chosen ones that will share in the first resurrection. They are designated as "a first fruit unto God of His creatures." It is equally clear that those who fail to make their calling and election sure will not share in the first resurrection, for, not being overcomers, they cannot be joint-heirs with Him, or reign with Him.
The great majority of those who fail will, we believe, be of the class which we often denominate the Great Company. Paul shows that the reason these fail is that they have not developed as they should. The pattern that is set before us is godlikeness-the transformation into the image of Christ, but these have not overcome the world as they should-have not excluded from their characters all of the elements of wood, hay, and stubble that are the outgrowth of this world; and so, when they pass through the tribulation which, under divine oversight, becomes a consuming fire, their building suffers the loss of all that is not gold, silver, and precious stones. - Acts 14:22; 1 Pet. 1:7; 4:12; 1 Cor. 3:11-15.
In Romans 12:1, Paul beseeches us to carry out our covenant of consecration, even unto death-to present our bodies, now counted as holy through the imputed merit of Jesus, a living sacrifice. This is our reasonable service. But many whose covenant of sacrifice has been sealed by begettal of the Holy Spirit, remain in bondage all their lives because of being fearful of (sacrificial) death. The covenant, however, must be performed: the death must take place; if not in faithful obedience upon the altar, then through forced destruction that "the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord." If we faithfully present ourselves, then our great High Priest will see that our offering is consumed upon the altar of sacrifice; but if we hold back, circumstances (a fit man) will bring or force us into conditions that will destroy all earthly hopes. And, if we do not repudiate the foundation upon which our structure was started (Heb. 6:4-8), we shall experience resurrection to a less exalted position. The First Resurrection class constitute the Temple of God; but this less worthy class become the servants before the throne, and serve God day and night in His Temple. - Rev. 7; Eph. 2:21.
RISEN WITH CHRIST
"If then ye be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God."
We are wont to think of the resurrection of the Church as being an instantaneous act performed by the power of God. This is true in so far as the awakening out of sleep and the change to a spirit body is concerned; for the Apostle says, "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye." But there is a very vital sense in which our resurrection begins at the time we are begotten of the Spirit and come into Christ. This was equally true of Jesus. We think of Him as having died on the cross, and He did; but His experience on the cross was the consummation of a death that began at Jordan; for during those three and a half years of His ministry, His own vitality was expended that others might be restored to a measure of health. So much was this true, that at the end, He was unable to bear His cross alone. - Luke 8:46; 23:26.
But at the same time that Jesus began to die as a man, He also began to live as a New Creature. This fact explains how it was possible to write concerning Jesus: "For it became Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory to make the author of their salvation Perfect through suffering." - Heb. 2:10.
Jesus was already perfect as a man, for on no other basis would His sacrifice have been acceptable unto God. But as a New Creature, undergoing preparation to be the world's High Priest, He needed to be developed or made perfect; and so again it is stated in Hebrews 5:8, 9, that "Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which he suffered; and having been made perfect, He became unto all them that obey Him the author of eternal salvation." Actually, therefore, the resurrection of Jesus began at Jordan when He was begotten, and was consummated in His birth when He was raised from the tomb.
The same is true of the Church. Paul says: "If, then, you were raised with the Anointed One, seek the things above, where the Anointed One is sitting at the right hand of God." (Col. 3:1, Diaglott.) Again he says, "But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace are ye saved) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." - Eph. 2:4, 5.
It is the grace of God that saved us -- delivered us -- from the curse which Divine justice held against all sinners, until such time as Jesus satisfied the claims of that justice. But, says the Apostle: "Shall we continue in sin [continue to please the flesh], that grace may abound? God forbid. We who died to sin, how shall we any longer live therein?" In coming to God for salvation through Christ, we professed an abhorrence of sin, and a desire to be rid of it. Would it then be consistent with our covenant if we permitted sinful desires to rule in our fleshly minds and bodies? No, we must prove our sincerity by walking after the spirit and not after the flesh.
In begetting us as New Creatures, God did not take away our freedom of will; but rather, in response to our own desires, He anointed us with His Spirit, and expects that we, of our own volition, will continue to desire the working of His Spirit within, that we "be not fashioned according to this world: but become transformed by the renewing of our minds, that we may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God." - Rom. 12:2.
At the time God accepted us in Christ, He could have given us perfect bodies in which to operate, but in that He did not do so, we have proof that He saw it was better for us, and for the outworking of His purpose concerning us, that we have to contend with the sinful tendencies and imperfections of the fleshly mind and body. And so the renewing of our minds and the transformation of character that results is a gradual resurrection work which must precede the change that will take place in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. And although this work is accomplished in proportion to the faith we manifest and the effort we put forth in the doing of God's-will, it is, nevertheless, God's work: "We are His work manship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." - Eph. 2:10.
- J. T. Read
- Mrs. Cecil F. Alexander.
"The company and assembly of the first-born in
REGARDLESS OF our predilection in favor of any interpretation, one objective and one alone must guide us as we reconsider this perennially interesting subject. And that is, to ascertain in humble and teachable spirit, what saith the Lord With this, the proper attitude of mind, let us consider anew the Scriptural facts relative to the tribe of Levi with full assurance of God's blessing as we endeavor to learn first, who the Levites were; secondly, whom they typify; and, finally, the ultimate destiny of this antitypical class.
THE SELECTION OF LEVI
The patriarch Jacob's descendants through his twelve sons, after having multiplied in Egypt, were reduced to virtual slavery. God raised up for them a great deliverer, Moses, and by ten plagues revealed His mighty power, until Pharaoh permitted the Israelites to depart. In the last terrible plague that befell Egypt, all the first-born of man and beast were slain except the first-born of Israel, who were preserved by the sprinkling of the blood of the paschal lamb. (Exod. 12:7, 13.) In view of this deliverance, God claimed all the first-born of man and beast as His own in a special sense. (Exod. 13:2.) During the wilderness journey, He separated the Levites, and took them and their cattle instead of the first-born of man and beast among the other tribes. "Take the Levites instead of all the first-born among the children of Israel, and the cattle of the Levites instead of their cattle; and the Levites shall be mine: Lam the Lord." (Num. 3:45.) From the tribe of Levi, thus set apart for the special service of Jehovah, God took Aaron and his sons for the priesthood (Exod. 28:1) , giving them the tribe of Levi for their attendants. Thus all the priests were Levites, but not all the Levites were priests. Henceforth the Levites always represented the first-born delivered on the Passover night.
The whole arrangement is given in the following words (Num. 3:6-10): "Bring the tribe of Levi near, and present them before Aaron the priest, that they may minister unto him. And they shall keep his charge, and the charge of the whole congregation ["charge," in the sense of duties with which they are charged in behalf of Aaron and the congregation] before the tabernacle of the congregation, to do the service of the tabernacle. And they shall keep all the instruments of the tabernacle of the congregation [that is, the tabernacle itself, with all its furniture], and the charge of the children of Israel, to do the service of the tabernacle. And thou shalt give the Levites unto Aaron, and to his sons: they are wholly given unto him out of the children of Israel. And thou shalt appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall wait on their priest's office: and the stranger [that is, one "not of the seed of Aaron," Num. 16:40] that cometh nigh [nigh to the sanctuary to perform any e priestly function] shall be put to death."
In the eighth chapter of Numbers, a more detailed account is given of the Levites' inception of sacred service, and should be carefully considered in its relation to the antitype. We note particularly verses 13 to 15: "Thou shalt set the Levites before Aaron, and before his sons, and offer them for an offering unto the Lord. Thus shalt thou separate the Levites from among the children of Israel: and the Levites shall be Mine. And after that shall the Levites go in to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation: and thou shalt cleanse them, and offer them for an offering." Thus an entire tribe was set apart for God's service; the Levites holding a nearer relation to God than the other tribes, the priests than the Levites, and the high priest than the subordinate priests. The Levites alone could minister to the priests, but were themselves forbidden to exercise any priestly function.
The tribe of Levi received no inheritance with the other tribes in the land of Canaan. It was necessary, therefore, that an adequate provision should be made for their maintenance. This was included in the declaration: "Levi hath no part nor inheritance with his brethren; the Lord is his inheritance, according as the Lord thy God promised him" (Dent. 10:9), which is several times repeated for substantiality (Num. 18:20, 24; Deut. 18:1, 2; Ezek. 44:28); for when God gives an inheritance to His servants, it meets all their wants, temporal as well as spiritual. Accordingly, God ordained that the other tribes should give the tenth part or tithe of all the increase of their fields and of their flocks and herds: "Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation." (Num. 18:21.) The Levites, in turn, were commanded to give a tenth of this tenth for the maintenance of the priests. - Ver. 26-32.
"The Levites have no part among you; for the Priesthood of the Lord is their inheritance." (Josh. 18:7.) Receiving thus no territorial possessions, forty eight cities were assigned to them by lot, out of the inheritance of the other tribes, with ample suburbs (pasture-grounds) for their cattle. (Num. 35; Josh. 121.) Of the above named forty-eight cities, the priestly order had thirteen, all in the tribes of Judah, Simeon, and Benjamin; and six of them were also cities of refuge, three on either side of the Jordan. By this arrangement the Levites were distributed throughout the whole Hebrew commonwealth, and so enabled, if faithful to their office, to exert the widest influence for the maintenance of the Mosaic institutions in their purity. Thus the prophetic announcement of Jacob respecting Simeon and Levi, "I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel" (Gen. 49:7), was so fulfilled in the case of this tribe as to be made a blessing to the tribe itself and to the whole nation; for the functions of the Levites were spiritual, and they became, in a measure at least, the instructors of the people.
THE LEVITICAL DUTIES
The duties of the Levites in the wilderness were minutely specified. All the arrangements for the journeying of the Israelites and for the transfer of the tabernacle and its furniture, were marked by the same order and decorum that prevailed in the ritual of religious service. In the inner circle, immediately around the tabernacle and its court, pitched the priests and Levites. Before the tabernacle on the east side, which was the most honorable place, pitched Moses and Aaron and his sons, "keeping the charge of the sanctuary." (Num. 3:38.) The next place in dignity, as we infer from the order in which the tribes marched, was the south side; and here accordingly were stationed the Kohathites, who had charge of the most sacred things. (Num. 3:31.) Next in order were the Gershonites, behind the tabernacle on the west side. Their charge was the curtains and coverings, etc. (Num. 3:25, 26.) The sons of Merari pitched on the north side, and to them was assigned the heaviest service. (Num. 3:36, 37.) To the sons of Gershon were given, for their part of the service, two wagons and four oxen; to the sons of Merari, four wagons and eight oxen. The sons of Kohath had no oxen or wagons, as they bare upon their shoulders the burdens assigned to them. (Num. 7:6-9.) The order of marching is described in detail in Numbers 10. The camping positions of the balance of Israel, relative to the tabernacle,' are given in Numbers 2. Undoubtedly all this has an antitypical significance were we but able to fathom their full meanings.
After the settlement of the Israelites in the land of Canaan, the notices of the place occupied by the Levites, and the services performed by them during the time of the judges are very scanty. We learn only from the irregular transaction recorded in the seventeenth chapter of the Book of judges, that a special sanctity attached to their persons in the eyes of the common people; for when Micah has consecrated a Levite as his priest, he says: "Now I know that the Lord will do me good, seeing I have a Levite to my priest." But under David a complete reorganization of the Levites was made. He numbered them, divided them into courses, and assigned to them their offices, according to the original idea of the Mosaic constitution. These offices are clearly given in two passages. The first is 1 Chronicles 23:4, 5, where we are told that of the 38,000 Levites, 24,000 were to preside over the work of the house of the Lord, 6,000 were judges and officers, 4,000 porters, and 4,000 singers and players on instruments. The office of judging fell very naturally to the Levites, and the example of David was imitated by his successors on the throne. (2 Chron. 19:8.) The other passage is 1 Chronicles 23:28-32, where the various services connected with the sanctuary are specified in detail -- the services of the Lord's house in the courts and chambers, the purifying of all holy things, the preparation of the flour for the various oblations, the keeping of the holy measures of all kinds, the morning and evening service of song in the sanctuary, all the offering of burnt-offerings for the stated seasons, etc. The Levites did not usurp the functions of the priests in offering sacrifices; but they waited upon them, procured the victims for the public sacrifices and rendered whatever other services the officiating priests needed.
From the nature of their office it devolved upon the Levites to see that the Mosaic institutions were maintained in their purity; but we do not find them acting as formal teachers of the people till a later period. Jehoshaphat sent with his princes, Levites to instruct the people in the law; "And they taught in Judah, and had the book of the law of the Lord with them, and went about throughout all the cities of Judah, and taught the people." (2 Chron. 17:9.) We see them performing the same spiritual work under Hezekiah (2 Chron. 30:22) and Josiah. (2 Chron. 35:3.) They assisted Jehoiada the high priest in dethroning Athaliah (2 Chron. 23) and were also employed, in connection with the priests, to cleanse the sanctuary which Ahaz had polluted (2 Chron. 29:15, 16), and repeated mention is made of their service as singers and players on instruments. - 2 Chron. 29:25-30; 35:15; Neh. 9:5.
And finally, something of their superior position, relative to the ordinary Israelite, is discernible in our Lord's passing allusion in the parable of the good Samaritan. - Luke 10:32.
THE ANTITYPICAL LEVITES
We have gone into a lengthy and, perhaps to some, tedious recital of Scripture details relative to the Levites, but have done so purposely to emphasize their distinct and separate position in the commonwealth of Israel. More Scriptures could be referred to but the stated facts are sufficient for us to now examine the antitype.
Is there any question as to there being an antitype? Surely not when we summarize the preceding paragraphs and note afresh the minuteness of detail given us by God's Word in regard to this class. In brief, the Scriptures teach:
(1) On the Passover night the first-born of Israel are saved by the blood of the paschal lamb.
(2) For a permanent memorial they are exchanged for the tribe of Levi, which is set apart to a spiritual service.
(3) From the Levites the high priest and underpriests are selected.
(4) Under the supervision of the priests, the Levites perform the tabernacle service and are also instructors of the Law to the people.Thus far we have merely recited the Scriptural facts upon which all will agree. In interpreting these acts, however, patience must be exercised by all, inasmuch as there is some honest and sincere disagreement. Taking the above points in the same order, the following appears to be their logical interpretation:
(1) The Passover night represents the period of the Gospel Age, during which a class from amongst mankind, namely the Church of the First-born (Heb. 12:23) are delivered from the danger of destruction by the "sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ," the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world. (I Pet. 1:2; Rom. 5:9; Rev. 5:9; Acts 20:28; John 1:29, 36; Rev. 13:8.) These are "passed from death unto life" and are become "a kind of first-fruits of His creatures" and "the first-fruits unto God and to the Lamb." "For Christ our passover is sacrificed for us." - James 1:18; Rev. 14:4; 1 Cor. 5:7.
The deliverance of the world follows that of the Church, and was pictured in the departure from Egypt (Satan's order) of all Israel after the "passing over" of the first-borns. The next morning typified the Millennial morning; and the subsequent passing through the Red Sea and the destruction of Pharaoh's hosts, pictured the work of the Restitution Age culminating in the final removal of all evil forces.
(2) The selection of the tribe of Levi as permanent representatives of the first-born, and their separation to the tabernacle ministry can well represent the called-out class of Christians consecrated to God's service. These constitute the "household of God" and are "the household of faith"; the "Church of the First born, which are written in heaven." (Eph. 2:19; Gal. 6:10; Heb. 12:23.) These are set apart to God's service and have made with Him a "covenant by sacrifice"; thus emulating their Master, whose footsteps they seek to follow in fulfilling their vow to do not their own, but the divine will.
(3) The elevation of some of the Levites to the Priesthood, comprising a High Priest and Under priests, seems to teach an eventual separation of these called-out, consecrated ones into two classes. Other Scriptures bear out this thought of a division of true believers into two classes. Actually, all believers, sincere and otherwise, can be listed under four headings, viz.: those who go into the Second Death; those who are mere professors, "tares"; and the two classes mentioned by St. Paul in the oft-quoted words of 1 Cor. 3:11-15: "Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and. the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire."
Here then, are two Christians, both justified, consecrated, and spirit-begotten-justified, because they build on the only Foundation (Psa. 40:2; Matt. 7:24; 1 Cor. ,10:4); consecrated, because none can be related to the Master except they take up their cross and deny themselves; spirit-begotten, because they are building a spiritual structure. "No man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron." (Heb. 5:4,) Both have come "under the blood"; both are antitypical first-borns and consequently, antitypical Levites. Both are endeavoring to emulate the High Priest of their profession (Heb. 3:1); both are probationary members of the Royal Priesthood. (1 Pet. 2:5, 9.) The superstructure they must build is that crystallization of spiritual principles, that attainment of Christ-mindedness which is best summed up in the one glorious resolution: "Not my will but Thine, O Lord, be done." Theirs is a purely voluntary walk, neither demanded by the justice of God, nor coerced by His Power. Their attainment of the divine goal, joint-heirship with Christ, depends entirely upon the carrying out of their consecration vows, by means of the "grace sufficient" God has promised to supply. "Gather My saints together unto Me; those that have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice." (Psa. 50:5.) Both are called in the one hope of their calling, but only the one is chosen and abides faithful. Only the one follows the "Lamb whithersoever He goeth." The other, alas, fails to realize that complete submission of self-will requisite for complete overcoming, and consequently is unable to endure the fiery tests which come in the "way" of suffering with Christ. Nevertheless they are beloved of the Lord, for their failure is not due to willful sin, but solely to an avoidance of the sacrificing necessary to carry out the terms of their covenant.
In nothing perhaps is the difference between these two types of Christians more discernible than in a comparison of the lives of Abraham and Lot. Both love the Lord, both are righteous, both leave all to come to the Promised Land. But the one completely submerges self-will in a marvelous obedience to the will of God; the other endeavors to do both God's will and his own, and succeeds in doing neither. Yet Lot is "righteous" and God spares him, though so "as by fire." There is much food for thought here for the sincere follower of Christ. *
* For a fuller presentation of these thoughts, see the article "Abraham and Lot--a Contrast" in the March and April issues of 1940, copies of which are still available.
(4) What shall be the eventual position of these two classes? There can be no question regarding the members of the Royal Priesthood -- theirs, a position of joint-heirship with Christ; Kings and Priests for a thousand years. They -- the "Abrahams" -- shall out work all God's gracious provisions on behalf of the human race. Theirs, the joy incomprehensible.
But what of the antitypical Levites -- the "Lots"? Three conclusions offer themselves. The first, that they shall be cleansed by the "fire" and thus become members of the "little flock," we reject as doing violence to other Scriptures. The second, that they shall eventually occupy a position on the earthly plane as perfect human beings is also inadmissible. We reason as follows:
(1) They are a class consecrated to do God's will.
(2) As human beings, they in common with all mankind were born in sin and "shapen in iniquity," and were "dead in trespasses and sins"; and thus were alienated from God. - Psa. 51:5; Eph. 2:1.
(3) Before their consecration could be acceptable, they needed to be justified from Adamic condemnation.
(4) Because of His purpose to "call out a people for His name," God had arranged the means of this justification, by sending His Son to die on Calvary as the ransom price for all.
(5) God's object in providing this justification was to give the individual an opportunity to consecrate himself and thus to become a joint-sacrificer with the Lord Jesus, as a member of His Body.
(6) God marks His acceptance of their consecration by begetting them through the Holy Spirit.
(7) Thenceforth they are "new creatures"; sons begotten to the spirit plane. That which is born (after being first begotten) of the spirit is spirit. John 3:6.
(8) The condition of God's acceptance of their consecration was their "death" to all the human rights which would accrue to them otherwise, in the Millennial Age, as a result of the ransom sacrifice of Christ. The grace of justification was granted to them to enable them to offer up these rights by sacrifice, thus becoming "dead with Christ." These rights, once given up, cannot be taken back again. None of the spirit-begotten, therefore, can be reinstated to earthly hopes or human life, for all rights to these were sacrificed at consecration.
(9) They must either be born on the spirit plane or die; and since St. Paul says they will be "saved," death certainly is not to be their portion.
(10) In the wilderness the Lord set the Levites apart for His service. Thenceforth they were to represent the first-born of all the tribes. These were typical of the Church of the First-born. (Heb. 12:23.) They were given title to no land, thus illustrating the fact that the antitypical Levites would be without earthly inheritance, but would be called to a heavenly inheritance.
In view of these considerations we are led to the third conclusion, namely, that the antitypical Levites, after passing through the disciplinary experiences arranged by the Lord during each one's lifetime to reveal the vanity of self-will ("saved, yet so as by fire"), will be raised to a spirit plane of existence, in which state, under the supervision of the Royal Priesthood, they shall be active ministrants in the great work of reconciliation during the Millennial Age. This we believe is the teaching of the Spirit in the typical work of the Levites on the days subsequent to the Day of Atonement.
In conclusion we would again stress the necessity of clearly discerning the importance of the doctrine of justification in its relation to this question of the future condition of the antitypical Levites. Once it is seen that consecration means the complete surrender of all earthly rights received through justification as a result of the ransom sacrifice, and that God's acceptance of one's consecration is marked by spirit-begettal -- once these things are seen, it seems obvious that all the called of this Gospel Age must either be born on the spirit plane or go into the Second Death. There cannot possibly be a return to human rights, as the "covenant by sacrifice" is irrevocable with the Lord.
And finally, though we accept the Scriptures as teaching the eventual existence of a spiritual class subordinate to the "little flock," let us emphasize the glorious position to which we are all called, even to joint-heirship with our High Priest, and strive so to run as to obtain. Let no spirit of slothfulness be engendered because of the Levitical type, that thereby we may be led to feel that if one does not attain to the highest position, the lower will in any case be allotted. Such a disposition is very dangerous and may result in the complete loss of all. We can never plead divine grace as an excuse for indifference or carelessness; for sin ever lieth at the door, and "if any man draw back, My soul shall have no pleasure in Him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe [in all the fulness of faith] to the saving of the soul." - Heb. 10:38, 39.
- W. J. S.
"After this manner therefore pray ye." - .Matt. 6:9; Luke 11:1.
THERE IS perhaps no other passage of Scripture with which we are more familiar than that of the "Lord's Prayer," recorded, as all are aware, in the sixth chapter of Matthew and the eleventh of Luke. Yet like all the inspired Word, this portion grows richer and more precious through study and reflection. Moreover, the nearer we come to entering into its full meaning, that much nearer will our lives be drawn to the heart of "Our Father" and to that of His Son, our great Elder Brother. Let us then take up these old, familiar words-this prayer we learned in childhood to "say"; this prayer which, please God, we shall continue to the end to pray, and as we do so, may the Lord grant us fresh inspiration and encouragement for the days that may lie ahead.
According to St. Luke's account, it was following a season of prayer in which our Lord had been personally engaged that this matchless prayer pattern was given to His disciples. Some of these disciples of Jesus had previously been disciples of John the Baptist, and had learned to pray as he had taught them. And that fearless preacher of righteousness and repentance had doubtless taught them well, according to his understanding and mission. But they were daily learning the surpassing excellence of our Lord, and on this rare occasion it would seem that they had been privileged to overhear Him praying. And what a privilege it must have been! He who spake as never man spake surely prayed as never man prayed. What energy of spirit the disciples must have witnessed! What ardent desire! Then, too, what a combination of filial reverence with courageous boldness, as, with no earth-born cloud to come between, He gained immediate access into the presence of His Father, conscious of the fact, as in another place He said, that the Father would hear Him "always." And again, what largeness of petition! What self-abnegation and occupation with the plans, with the honor and glory of His Father! And what humility! What tenderness! What conviction and earnestness! Small wonder that when He ceased, one of His disciples, doubtless expressing the desire of them all, made request, "Lord, teach us to pray."
This request must have greatly pleased our Lord, for He at once proceeded to grant it. Beginning with the words: "After this manner therefore pray ye," He gave them this precious pattern of prayer which is ours today. It was, of course, intended only as a pattern. Not for a moment are we to suppose that He intended His disciples then or since to use these specific words only, with never a variation in them. Nevertheless, it is doubtful if a true prayer has ever been breathed that would not come within the embrace of one or other of these brief petitions. And what petitions they are!-so simple that they fit the lips and hearts of little children, yet so profound that it is a question if the mightiest intellects have fathomed their depths.
To address the great Jehovah as Father came easily and naturally to Jesus; and we, too, into whose heart God hath sent forth the spirit of His Son crying Abba, Father, have learned the blessedness of this relationship, but it was a new experience for our Lord's followers then -- one with which they were totally unacquainted. While God had, in sundry time and in divers manners, spoken unto the fathers the Prophets, He had not been revealed except in the dimmest way as their Father. Only a few times in the Old Testament is He mentioned as Father, and then from the national, not from the individual viewpoint. We speak of George Washington as being the Father of his country, meaning that he holds the relationship with respect to the country as a nation with respect to its government, institutions, etc. In the same sort of sense, only of course very mud higher and grander, was Jehovah regarded as the Father of Israel. But Jesus revealed God as the Father of the individual. No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him, or made Him known. Our Lord scarcely ever spoke of God by any other name. In the Sermon on the Mount alone He mentions Him by that name seventeen times. In the first recorded utterance of His, Jesus as a boy, thus speaks of God: "Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business?" And at the close of His earthly life His last utterance was: "Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit." The first word following His resurrection was "I am not yet ascended to My Father: but go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God." And then, as He was about to take His final leave of them, once more He reminded them of the Father, and instructed them to wait at Jerusalem, until they were endued with power from on high-until they had received the promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit, of which He had told them.
We may well pause a moment at this word, "Father." The rest of the prayer has been likened to a rich treasure house or vault, and the words "Our Father" to the golden hinges on which the door to this treasure swings open. If our hearts respond, if we can enter into an experimental realization of the meaning of this word, we may proceed with the rest of the prayer; otherwise, it would hardly be worth while. For the entire mission of Christ, including even His death on the cross, was for just this pur pose-to reveal the Father to the hearts of men.
FATHERHOOD OF GOD AND BROTHERHOOD OF MAN
But the world has developed some rather "free and easy" ideas of the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. They overlook, or ignore, the fact, that to call God our Father, we must ourselves be sons, and that it is they who are led by the Spirit of God, and they only, who are sons of God. Since our first parent, Adam, was created a son of God, sin has entered the world, and it is only through Christ, and by partaking of His Spirit, that men can recover this lost estate of sonship. "He came unto His own and His own received Him not, but to as many as received Him to them gave He the privilege of becoming sons of God." "No man knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal Him."
And how the Son did indeed reveal the Father during the days of His flesh! By every expression of righteous indignation against sin wherever found; by every loving word; by every gracious act He declared Him. And since His glorious resurrection and ascension He, by the power of His Spirit in our hearts and lives, has continued to reveal to us the Father. Yes, thank God, Jesus has shown us the Father, and it sufficeth us. God pity the man who knows nothing of our gracious heavenly Father. God be thanked for those who do. Happy the man, who having entered the secret place, and shut the door, is able to look up into the face of God, and with deep conviction say: Father. Such a man has his feet standing on solid ground, and is in a condition to pray.
A FILIAL AND A FRATERNAL SPIRIT
The prayer which follows this opening address divides easily and naturally into two parts consisting of three petitions each. The first three, "Hallowed be Thy name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done," are quite evidently concerned with the honor and glory, with the plans and purposes of our Father, and are therefore to be offered in a filial spirit, the spirit of sonship. The last three concern themselves with our Father's family, His sons and daughters, our own dear brothers and sisters in the Lord. For them we are to pray that they may be fed, forgiven, and guided. "Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins as we forgive our debtors, and abandon us not in trial, but deliver us from the evil one." These three petitions, while still to be offered in a filial spirit, are to be characterized additionally by a fraternal spirit, a spirit of brotherly interest. Nowhere in this prayer is there a word of self, except, indeed, that though least and last of our Father's dear family, we are yet included therein, and may thus find our needs embraced in the petitions we offer for them.
HALLOWED BE THY NAME
"Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name." In this sentence there is both praise and petition -- praise, in that we here and now do hallow
His name, with a deep sense of satisfaction in so doing; petition, in that we express a longing desire that His name may be everywhere held in highest esteem and veneration.
What are we to understand by the name of our heavenly Father? Names stand for character or attributes. Thus the name of Nero is synonymous with cruelty, because the record of his life was such. Similarly the name of Napoleon stands for military genius; that of Daniel fearless faithfulness. The name of Ford suggests the automobile industry; that of Rockefeller, oil or wealth. We speak of some who have good names, of others who have bad; of some who have honored, of others who have dishonored names. And there is probably no way in which one can harm another more than by injuring his name. Now there is no doubt but that the name of God can become much holier than it is in the minds of men and women. What unworthy conceptions of God and His character are still held by mankind! This petition, then, is the expression of a desire that only worthy thoughts and feelings should be entertained in reference to God. "Whenever Thou art thought of, whenever Thy name is mentioned, may it be with becoming reverence and veneration," - such is the heart's desire here. Brethren, we are living in a day when there is little reverence for anything, and we should be all the more watchful that we ourselves do not lose the spirit. It is easily possible to do so. Permit us to quote from a passage written by Brother Russell nearly thirty years ago on this subject. He wrote:
"Perhaps no quality of heart is in greater danger of being blotted out amongst professing Christians today than this thought of reverence for God. However much we may have grown in knowledge, and however much we have gotten free from superstitions and errors, and however advanced in some respects is the Christian's position of today over that of a century ago, we fear that reverence has been losing ground, not only in the nominal church, but with many of the members of the one 'Church of the living God, whose names are written in heaven.' Every loss of reverence is a distinct disadvantage, both to the Church and to the world, paving the way to various evils, and ultimately to anarchy."
"SO LET OUR DAILY LIVES EXPRESS"
How may we hallow His name? We answer: First of all in our hearts. Graciously our heavenly Father speaks to us, "My son, give Me thine heart." Yes, it is in the recesses of the heart that all true reverence must begin. And how rich is His promise to such as do thus reverence Him: "A book of remembrance was written before Him for them that reverenced the Lord and that thought upon His name. And they shall be Mine saith the Lord of hosts in that day when I make up My jewels"; and again, in that same Malachi passage: "Unto you that reverence My name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise, with healing in His beams."
Then, too, we may hallow His name by our words. How much we may honor or dishonor, elevate or depress, a name, by our words, not only by what we say about the name, but by how we say it; by the manner in which we use it, by the tone of voice and general expression which may be ours at the time we utter it! May it always be ours to speak our Father's name reverently, in the spirit of adoration and devotion.
And then, we may hallow His name by our lives. In what way can children honor an earthly father's name better than by the characters they develop? What sheds such luster on a parent's name as the virtuous character and life of his child? What so dishonors that name as unworthy conduct on the part of his children?
Meanwhile the language of our hearts has been well expressed by the poet:
THY WILL BE DONE
This petition, Thy will be done, is not given in St. Luke's account, but it expresses so admirably the state of things which will result from the establishment of the Kingdom of God over humanity, that there is no reason to doubt but that it is a genuine part of the prayer as Jesus uttered it. It is evident that the will of God referred to here, is His good pleasure, or what is sometimes spoken of as His preceptive will, as distinguished from His decretive will. We do not need to pray that His decrees shall come to pass; His decrees are already done on earth even as they are done in heaven, but His good pleasure is not.
We desire to call attention here to the fact that the words, "on earth as it is in heaven," belong to u each of these first three petitions, and not exclusively to the third. To understand the full significance of this we should read the petitions thus: "Hallowed be Thy Name, on earth as it is in heaven; Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Quite evidently, therefore, this is a prayer, the answer to which is to take place here on earth or not at all. And it is also evident that this prayer assumes that God's name is not hallowed on earth as it is in heaven; that God's Kingdom is not yet established on earth as it is in heaven; that His will is not yet done on earth as it is done in heaven. No one who can pray this prayer, and put into these words the meaning Christ put into them, could suppose that it has had any real answer yet. Ask yourself the question: Are conditions now prevailing on this earth such that He is now satisfied with them, and regards them as the answer to, His prayer? Assuredly not! Ah! there is a day coming when all mankind will love God supremely; when each will love his neighbor as himself. Is this true today? Is every business transaction on earth conducted by the principles and in the spirit of Jesus? Happy would we be if we could say that even our own church business affairs were always so conducted! And what of other human relationships? Are they according to the heart and mind of Christ? Is it so between every husband and wife, parent and child, teacher and student, employer and employed, friend and friend? Moreover, what of our literature and art? Has all the filth and rubbish been destroyed, so that now there remains not a book or magazine that Christ would be ashamed to have written? Are all the pictures in the art galleries of the world such as He would have been proud to paint, or glad to gaze upon? Ah! dear friends, do we not know that when God's name is hallowed on earth as it is in heaven, when His Kingdom has come on earth as it is in heaven; when His will is done on earth as it is in heaven, there will be a great change from present conditions. It will be a change almost as great (not quite, but almost), as when He shall change this body of our humiliation and fashion it like unto the body of His glory. Oh! what a change is coming to this earth of ours, when this prayer shall be fully answered! Then, every realm of human thought and activity, everything that touches the life of mankind on this earth, shall be so permeated, penetrated, controlled, energized, uplifted, and transfigured by the Spirit of Christ, that the life of man on this earth will reflect the will of God as the unruffled lake reflects the face of the sun. This prayer is not yet obsolete, and will not cease to be appropriate, until as a matter of fact, as well as a matter of right, all things are put under Christ's feet, and when He Himself shall have delivered up the Kingdom to God, even the Father. After this manner, therefore, pray we: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will, be done -- on earth as it is in heaven; and Father, so far as lieth in us, we will see to it that it shall be done in us, if nowhere else. Father, we are not in ourselves sufficient for these things; but Thy grace is sufficient; Thy strength shall be made perfect in our weakness. And so we pray thus, in faith, believing.
HOW IS GOD'S WILL DONE IN HEAVEN?
A story is told of a Sunday-School teacher who put this question to her class: How is the will of God done in heaven? The class had a week to prepare individual answers. At the appointed time they appeared with the following replies, each given by a different member of the class: God's will is done in heaven cheerfully; God's will is done in heaven completely; unitedly; lovingly; unweariedly; and, without asking questions. If this story be true, that class was being nurtured and brought up well in the faith and admonition of the Lord. And we, too, if we would ascertain most certainly how our Father's holy will may be done on earth, nay how it was, indeed, done on earth even as it is done in heaven, we have but to go to our own wise and patient Instructor, our Lord Jesus. We may learn of Him, the meek and lowly One. We know how patient He was. It was not easy for Him to live on this earth. Even His truest friends hurt His heart ofttimes-by their dullness, or by their unbelief, or by their failure in friendship. But we know how sweetly He kept on His way of love with them. We know with what self forgetfulness He served others, going at last to a cross for them. We know how quietly He turned His face from His active ministry when the time came, and set His face to go to Jerusalem to die. Christ Himself is our great Teacher. Who but He can show us these things? In His own walk on earth He has shown us how God's will is done in heaven, and how we should try to do it on earth.
-P. L. R.
(To be continued)
Members of the Pastoral Bible Institute ar hereby reminded of the privilege which is theirs of nominating in the pages of this journal the brethren they wish to elect as directors for the fiscal year 1943-1944. While the attention of new members is especially draw to this matter, we desire to emphasize in the minds, old members also, not only the privilege, but also that responsibility which continued association with this ministry brings.
All should be aware of the fact that the affairs of this Institute are in the hands of seven brethren who are elected from the Institute's membership to serve for a period of one year or until their successors are elected. In accordance with the by-laws the next annual meeting is due to be held Saturday, June 5, 1943, at 2 1 in., in the parlors of the Institute, 177 Prospect Place, Brooklyn, N. Y.
The seven brothers whose term of service will expire next June are:
The brethren named above are pleased to report that a spirit of Christian love and harmony exists in their midst; and they have reason to believe that the Lord has seen fit to bless their association in this ministry. They realize, however, that those carrying on any work often fail to see opportunities for improvement and expansion apparent to others not charged with such responsibility. For this reason changes in office not infrequently have beneficial effects. They desire above all things that the work of the Lord (for the furtherance of which this Institute was formed) be prosecuted with the greatest possible efficiency, and to this end are ready cheerfully to step aside for others whom the membership believe to be fitted for the work. They therefore urge upon all the members of our Institute that they make this a special occasion of prayer, and they also earnestly pray that our Father's will may be expressed in the vote of the members.
If after prayerful meditation any are led of the Lord to nominate brethren, and will forward the names and addresses of such brethren so as to reach this office on or before April 15, 1943, such names will be published in the May issue of the "Herald," that all members may have an opportunity of voting for them.
1 Peter 1:7
Faith untried may be true faith, but it is sure to be little faith, and it is likely to remain dwarfish so long as it is without trials. Faith never prospers as well as when all things are against her. When a calm reigns on a sea, spread the sails as you will, the ship moves not to its harbor, for on a slumbering ocean the keel sleeps too. Let the winds rush howling forth, and let the waters lift themselves, then, though the vessel may rock, and her deck may be washed with rains, and her mast may creak under the pressure of the pull and swelling sail, it is then that she makes headway toward her desired haven.
No flowers wear so lovely a blue as those which grow at the foot of a glacier; no stars, gleam so brightly as those which glisten in the polar sky. No water tastes so sweet as that which springs amid the desert sand; and no faith is so precious as that which lives and triumphs in adversity.
Tried faith brings experience. You could not have believed your own weakness had you not been compelled to pass through the rivers; and you would never have known God's strength had you not been supported amid the flood waters. Faith increases in solidity, assurance, and intensity, the more it is exercised with tribulation. Faith is precious, and its trial is precious too. But learn trust and you shall yet have more and more of the blessings of God till your faith shall remove mountains and conquer impossibilities.
Thomas Carlyle has been quoted as saying:
"In any controversy the instant we feel anger we have ceased striving for truth, and have begun striving for ourselves."
Would it not be well for us as Christians to observe how true this is, and to watch that we do not become unduly exercised in our endeavors to set one another right? How many of us can truly say that we have never committed the error of striving for our own viewpoint, when ostensibly we were interested only in establishing God's viewpoint?
Carlyle is not saying that anger makes any change as respects the truth of the point of contention, for anger has no power to alter truth; but his observation shows that the motive actuating one would be no longer blameless. And even should we win our point-a doubtful ending-we would still be presumptuous and need forgiveness.
Apparently Moses made the mistake of ursurping God's place when he became angry with Israel at the time divine power was being exercised through him to cause water to flow from the rock. In all probability, had he not let anger becloud his mind, he would not have forgotten himself to such an extent. Jesus, on the other hand, never let Himself commit the error of self-seeking or usurpation of God's position, even though He used strong words of condemnation to the leaders of Israel.
Paul did not shun to declare the whole counsel of God, even when the doctrine he elucidated was not pleasing to many of those to whom he wrote. And neither should we shun to speak of any teaching set forth in the Divine Word simply because some are not pleased. We should be very careful, however, that our motive is right: that we are actuated by the desire to faithfully represent God, and not with any intent of justifying ourselves or of presuming to usurp God's right as the Fountain of all truth. With David let us pray: "Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgress ion." - Psa. 19:13.
A TRAVELER touring through Palestine, visiting the historic places associated with the earthly life of Jesus, is likely to find himself guided into a building reputed to stand on the site of the Inn stable in which Jesus was born. In this he will find Roman Catholics, Greek Catholics, and Armenians, each occupying an assigned place. But he will also observe that friction and discord prevail among them to such a degree that police are always present to maintain order and prevent bloodshed. He views this scene with a sad heart, thinking on the strange ways of bigoted, selfish men. Leaving this building of man's designing with its traditional inharmony, our traveler goes out to a hill not far from the gate of Bethlehem. From this hill he may look out over the wide open spaces of God's earth, bathed in its sunshine by day, and canopied with the star-decked handiwork of God by night. Here he gazes on the mighty, noiseless, frictionless operations of God's creative and sustaining power. Here, away from the jar of human creeds and narrowing decrees, he feels the sublime communion of the finite mind with the Infinite Father of lights, who condescends to commune with men.
From his hill-sanctuary he sees the same undimmed stars still shining down on Bethlehem as were there to give their light to that city when the Babe slept in the crude manger-cradle, still giving out their silent testimony to the stability and peaceful outworking of eternal purposes by a power none may disannul. Sheep lie nestled as of yore in nearby folds in quietness and contentment, thus reminding the onlooker of One who became 'the Good Shepherd, and of quiet waters flowing through green pastures. In this peaceful, open sanctuary overshadowed by God's glory in the heavens, our traveler can visualize a scene of future tranquility to be made real because of the Babe sent into the world to be a revelation of God's love for all men. In that vision he sees beyond the manger cradle, beyond a cross and a sepulcher, out into the reign of the One whose name is "Prince of peace," of whose government of righteousness and peace there shall be no end. His reverie expands into ages of blessedness, when the peace and harmony of heaven have kissed the earth back to God's first design, and brought abiding love and good-will among all men.
Man's inhumanity to man has all disappeared. Men no longer make the love of God too narrow by their own decrees, nor deface His image in their souls.
For a moment our traveler remembers the contrast between the designs of men as witnessed in the building he had just left, and the unprecedented beauty of God's sanctuary. He thinks of this, and says, How sadly symbolic in its meaning is that building yonder in Bethlehem, with its bickering worshipers, and all their peace -- destroying traditions -- a scene multiplied beyond count in every land where a day apart is recognized as the birthday of the Son of God. Oh, that men would leave their little huts of prejudice and strive to find God in the spaciousness and freedom of His earth and heaven-embracing sanctuary.
Then looking up again to the star-studded firmament with its silent majestic orbs obeying the unseen power of their Creator, he feels a joy in noting how "their melody extendeth through all the earth, and to the end of the world their words." Before this pageantry of noiseless power and greatness his head bows in reverent gratitude. Here, removed from the confusions created by the dogmas of men, he becomes blessedly conscious of that deep, inward peace of God which passes all human understanding, while a voice seems to speak to his soul out of the vastness of God's supremacy and prerogative, saying amid the witnesses of His love and power, "The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are His." He knows by an inward sense of nearness -- to infinity, that here in God's great quiet sanctuary the Voice that walked through the flowered paths of Eden in the cool of the day, is heard calling again -- calling, not in a tone creating fear, but in the restful melody of a sweet benediction. To our traveler it is the voice of love in which He who died to redeem, us all from the power of death and rose again for our justification, is now calling us in our time away from all that is of man's commotion, to walk in paths of peace and righteousness with Him -- to walk with Hire as He leads us --
- J. J. B.