"For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but one who was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin."—Heb. 4:15.
WHILE in this our judgment day we find great comfort in this blessed assurance, realizing as we do our own weaknesses and shortcomings and manifold temptations, we call to mind this statement now for another purpose; viz., to remind the members of the elect Church of God, who are to constitute the Royal Priesthood of the new dispensation, that they, like their Lord and Head, must also be touched with the feeling of the world's infirmities, else they would be totally unfit for so exalted and responsible a position.
In the Royal Priesthood of that age the world is to have the same comfort in its priesthood that we in our present infirmities find in Christ. For this cause, chiefly, we apprehend that the priesthood is chosen from among men—that redeemed men who were once in the same plight with all the rest of humanity, being thus exalted to the divine nature with all its power to bless, might also, from their past experience and observations while they were men amongst men, be thereby qualified to be very wise and merciful priests, knowing well how to deal with the poor sin-sick world; and that the world might find comfort and consolation in the realization of such sympathy.
Such being the mission of the Church, in the not far distant future, all who expect to be of its approved membership in glory should now be cultivating a broad and generous sympathy for all their fellows of the "groaning creation"—a sympathy which considers the weaknesses and temptations of fallen men, mental, moral and physical, and which is ready to forgive and help the repentant erring; a sympathy illustrated by the verse—
"A bending staff I would not break,
A feeble faith I would not shake,
Nor even rudely pluck away
The error which some truth may stay,
Whose sudden loss might leave without
A shield against the shafts of doubt."
It is not enough that we know the truth and rejoice in hope of a future personal exaltation: we must not forget the very object of that exaltation—the blessing of all the families of the earth—and the present duty of conformity to the word and example of our Lord, that thus by his Word and Providence he may fit us for the duties and honors to which he has called us. Only by so doing can we make our calling and election sure.
If we turn our eyes to the pattern, we see in our Lord Jesus one who was deeply moved at the sight of human degradation, moral and physical. So must it be with all his followers. We must be in sympathy with every impulse of the world which is toward righteousness and reformation of character and life; we must rejoice at every movement that is made in this direction; and our sympathies should go out toward all who are laboring for the common uplifting as well as for all the oppressed everywhere. And so we trust they do. We sympathize with the temperance work and would not have one abandon the ranks of its laborers, [R1632 : page 84] except to engage in the higher work of this harvest time, to which the elect consecrated sons of God are now specially called. And we say, God bless every truly philanthropic heart and hand that is trying to rescue the unfortunate victims of strong drink. We would have all such go on until the Master, noting their zeal, where it springs from love to him, shall say, "It is enough; come up higher"—to the higher work, the harvesting or gathering together of his elect from the four winds.—Matt. 24:31.
We sympathize also with the social purity movement, which aims at the emancipation of woman and the elevation of man, and which eloquently appeals to the conscience of the present generation for the pre-natal rights of the yet unborn generations of the twentieth century—their right to be well born and bred—with as little of the taint of hereditary evil as the present generation can give. It, however, grapples with an evil so deep-seated that little can be hoped for from it, except the creating of a more healthful sentiment on the part of thoughtful and well disposed people, and a greater realization on the part of many of the giant proportions and exceeding hatefulness of sin.
We sympathize, too, with the demand of another class of reformers for a single standard of virtue for man and woman alike—that public sentiment should be no more lenient toward the sins of men than toward the sins of women; and believe that a single standard of virtue, which would as completely ostracize a guilty man from society as a guilty woman, would be a safeguard to many a young man to whom the path of vice is made, alas! too easy.
We are glad, too, to see the evidences of philanthropy and moral reform in some heathen lands, though we know how necessarily feeble must be the resistance to the mighty waves of corruption against which they battle.
And so with every good work and with every noble sentiment our hearts are and should be in accord; and we rejoice with them over every victory they gain for righteousness and truth, however small, although we are not with them on the same plane of endeavor; for God has given us the higher commission. The priesthood may not despise the Levites, nor even the children of the camp. We rejoice that there are Levites—hewers of wood and drawers of water (See TABERNACLE SHADOWS), and that even in the world's great camp there are some who not only incline to righteousness, but who are bravely endeavoring to stem the overwhelming tide of evil. But we rejoice more in the fact that it will ere long be our privilege to take hold of all these much needed reforms with energy and power and push them forward to glorious success, when in God's due time we shall be endued with power from on high.—Matt. 13:43; Gal. 3:29.
Dearly beloved of the consecrated household, let us not forget to keep in touch with the groaning creation; to sympathize with its sorrows and its woes; to realize its deep degradation and misery; to remember its frailties, its awful burden of hereditary taints and consequent weaknesses; its present environments of ignorance and superstition; and its long established errors of public sentiment; remembering that we too are still in the sinful flesh, and that the motions of sin are still often painfully manifest in us, in some directions at least, if not in many. And as the cries of the groaning creation come up into the ears of the Lord of hosts (Jas. 5:4) with strong and pathetic pleading to his loving heart, so let them come into our ears and gain our sympathies, and quicken our zeal to co-operate with our Heavenly Father's plan for the establishment of his Kingdom of righteousness and peace.
But let us bear in mind that a real pity for the world, a full sympathy with every good work of reform, and an active co-operation with God in the necessary preparation for our great future work, imply also that we have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness and that our lives be a standing rebuke to them. "How," says the Apostle, [R1632 : page 85] "shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein?...Our old man [our justified human nature] is crucified with Christ that the body [organization] of Sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve Sin"—nor in any sense recognize Sin as our master.—Rom. 6:2-6.
It should be our constant effort, therefore, to seek to discern the course of righteousness on every question of moral obligation, and to see to it that our conduct, our sympathies and our influence, however small, are on the side of righteousness. In this day of searching judgment it should be observed that every principle of moral obligation is being brought forward for searching examination. One cannot thoughtfully read the daily press without observing this tendency of the times in which we live. No matter how long and firmly established have been the old ideas, nothing can escape this scrutiny. And the principles of righteousness are being boldly set forth—here on one subject, and there on another; and that in defiance of the thundering anathemas from all the old fortresses of sin, iniquity and superstition.
But right and truth must and shall prevail when our Kingdom has been established (Matt. 6:10; Luke 12:32; 22:29), however feeble now may be the voices lifted in their defence. Let our sentiments and our course of action always be noble and pure, and on the right side of every subject that comes forward for ventilation and investigation; for we should be "a peculiar people, zealous of good works."—Titus 2:14.