"And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself even as he is pure." 1 Jno. 3:3.
It has probably been noticed by our readers that but little has been said in the TOWER upon the subject of morality, and that the various Christian graces, such as benevolence, kindness, gratitude, love, etc., have received but little special attention; while there has been no urging of Christians to be honest, to be truthful, to forego certain worldly amusements, to disregard the fashions of this world as to manner of dress, etc., etc.
These and kindred topics are generally regarded both in pulpits and in the various religious papers as matters of greatest importance. But it should be noticed that the bulk of Bible teaching is not morality, but "doctrines," revelations and teachings relative to God's plan and our part in it, from which, as fruits, morality and the graces are expected to grow. "Exceeding great and precious promises" are planted, and where these enter good and honest hearts, faith and hope and love spring up with their various fruits of purity of mind and body, meekness, gentleness, benevolence, and self-sacrifice for the good of others, and above all, in the service of God and his truth. Thus morality and the cultivation of the various graces are by no means ignored in Scripture; and though accorded a less prominent place than other features of their teaching, they are thus most emphatically taught.
Because the Bible does so, the TOWER aims at the root of the matter, to get the heart right; for "out of" the heart "are the issues of life." (Prov. 4:23.) An impure fountain cannot send forth sweet waters; neither can a pure fountain send forth bitter waters. But how shall the heart be made right? by telling a man that he must not be intemperate, that he must not be dishonest, that he must not be unkind and selfish, etc.? No; you will never convert a man by laying down the law to him, nor by merely telling him the disadvantages of wrong doing. Men know what they ought and ought not to do generally, but the tendency of the fallen nature is downward, and they need to be converted from the heart before they can resist it. That is, the affections must first be turned away from sin to righteousness.
Nothing is calculated to do this so effectually as to let men see the glorious plan of God as revealed in the Scriptures. This is to be God's plan in the age to come; for the knowledge of the Lord revealed by his plan shall fill the whole earth as the waters cover the sea. Men will not then be scared into the service of God by the false threat of eternal torment; but being constrained by the love of God, the abundance of the nations shall be converted. (Isa. 60:5.) God does not desire the service of fear, except that filial fear which is inspired by love, which dreads to incur his displeasure, or to appear ungrateful for his favors.
The Bible, in type, and prophecy, and copious expositions of the same, shows how fully and completely our sins have been cancelled, and our lives redeemed, by the precious blood of Christ; how it has been done in strictest harmony with the justice of God, who had justly condemned us to death (extermination) on account of sin, but who now as justly awards to all who will accept of it, eternal life through the gift of his Son, our [R829 : page 6] Lord Jesus Christ, who paid our ransom price. And this is shown to be our strong consolation, which leaves no room for doubt of our everlasting inheritance thus purchased for us, unless after being brought to a knowledge of it, we refuse to accept the favor of God which few will do.
The Bible not only gives this sure foundation for our faith, but it fills our hearts with joy unspeakable and full of glory through the revelations of the blessings to come, the further manifestations of the love of God. And in the presentation of so grand a plan for the redemption and restitution of mankind, the glorious character of our God is made to shine with such lustre that as men come to see it, they will be constrained to admire, to love, and to imitate.
Thus it will be with all men, when all men are brought to the knowledge of the Lord; and thus it is now, with those who are now made acquainted with him. His love begets our love and gratitude in return; his justice awakens our sense of justice; his benevolence leads us to deeds of benevolence: and thus we grow up into his likeness. We can show our love and gratitude to God by manifesting his character to our fellowmen, both in our common dealings with them, and also by doing good to all men as we have opportunity; especially to the household of faith (Gal. 6:10); in making known to all the exceeding riches of his graces. And if any man love not his brother, how dwelleth the love of God in him?
And every man which hath this hope which the Bible inspires, in him, purifieth himself even as he (God) is pure. Beholding the character of God as it shines in the face of Jesus Christ, he endeavors to eradicate from his own character and disposition that which is impure and out of harmony with the perfect pattern. Seeing God's benevolence, he gets ashamed of his own selfishness; seeing God's energy, he gets ashamed of his own indolence; seeing in God the beautiful balancing of a wise economy with a bountiful and loving providence, he comes to despise both meanness and extravagance, and attempts to wisely balance his own character in this respect. And thus the purifying process progresses from day to day in all who are truly his children.
And yet it is not by this purifying process that we render ourselves acceptable to God, though we are not acceptable to him without it. We were justified (reckoned perfect) at the very outstart—as soon as we believed—through the merit of our Redeemer; but if we would continue to be so reckoned, we must continue our endeavor to reach perfection. And he who does not make such endeavor has by no means the spirit of Christ. It is impossible to conceive of one filled with the spirit of Christ yet lacking in love to others, especially to them of the household of faith, or wholly lacking in effort to show that love. Love will show itself in deeds of kindness and acts of service, and love will return the evidences of grateful acceptance, and thus love cements the hearts of the truly consecrated.
A heart destitute of that love which delights to render service, or destitute of gratitude for favors received, either from God direct or through others, is not fully in fellowship and communion with God. How dwelleth the love of Christ in such a one? When God's truth takes proper hold upon the heart, it begins at once its moulding, shaping influence, bringing the child of God day by day into closer conformity to his will. And love will not render service grudgingly with a sigh and a groan at every effort. Such service is not pleasing to God. "The Lord loveth a cheerful giver," of whatever nature may be [R830 : page 6] the gift or service to him or others.
Every one that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, for it is vain to hope for future glory if we are not trying to subdue sin now. God provides the helps in the promises, etc., but leaves us to do the purifying in ourselves, as the text asserts. To the extent that we let His truth dwell in and operate in and control us, to that extent will the purifying progress. The Bride makes herself ready (Rev. 19:7) for union with the Bridegroom by using the means provided by the Bridegroom.