—GAL. 5:15-26; 6:7,8.—SEPTEMBER 30.—
MANY sing, "Onward, Christian Soldier, battling for the right," who but imperfectly comprehend the meaning of their words, the signification of the Christian battle. But it is a battle of freedom in the highest and best sense of the expression. In ignorance the battle is often misrepresented before the public mind. To give an illustration, the newspapers recently told of how a colony of emigrants from Europe had killed one of their number for a violation of some of their social regulations, and how they were very much surprised when the officers of the law made investigation. They thought they were coming to a free country! They were surprised to learn that freedom here is understood only to mean literally to do right—liberty under the laws framed and approved by the majority. This illustrates in large measure the anarchist condition of the natural mind in its untutored condition.
Civilization, basing itself partly on an appreciation of the principles of justice and partly upon the lessons of history, attempts so to shape the laws of the land as to secure the rights of all. It is not surprising, however, that—with selfishness a ruling element in all hearts by nature—neither the laws nor the practices of the most civilized are perfect: that is to say, the largest amount of protection and the largest amount of individual liberty are not always secured. When we consider that the lawmakers and executives are all imperfect, biased, selfish, we are properly amazed at the amount of justice we find in the world and the amount of liberty. If all the lawmakers were saints, fully in harmony with the divine arrangements and merely limited by the imperfection of their mortal bodies, we could not expect much better laws than we find in the world; and were it not that the Scriptures clearly show us that the Church, as kings and priests of the future, will be absolutely perfect in every respect and backed by divine wisdom and power, we could not anticipate for the Millennium anything much better than we now possess in the way of governmental machinery.
As we compare the various degrees of civilization throughout the world, and note that the wisest and best laws and wisest and best execution of them and the greatest true liberty of the people within reasonable bounds are found in those nations which have most reverenced the divine message, the Bible, it is a strong argument that the Word of God has not only influenced the "little flock," who take it most seriously, and lay aside every weight and hindrance and worldly ambition to run with patience in the footsteps of Jesus, but it has influenced the minds of many who have never taken this step of full consecration. In a word, the liberty wherewith Christ makes free is not the liberty of license but the liberty of reason, of justice and of love; and in proportion as any one has received the spirit of the divine teaching, in that same proportion he is a free-man. We thank God, therefore, for the measure of national liberty which prevails throughout the world, even while we see clearly from the prophecies of the Scriptures, as well as written on the pages of the daily press, that a great misinterpretation of liberty is rapidly spreading throughout the world, which will eventually wreck the present civilization in anarchy.
The civilized world, like a school, divides itself into various classes, some more and some less advanced: the lowest class totally misapprehend liberty, thinking of it merely as license, self-will, and failing to recognize the fact that selfishness being in control and interests conflicting, its conception of liberty is unreasonable and injurious. The second class appreciates liberty, and more reasonably submits itself wherever necessity compels, and no more. With these it is a matter of policy and not of principle. One class approves liberty for the masses, because otherwise the masses [R3857 : page 296] would rebel. It lengthens its own rope of privilege to the extent that the majority permit. Selfishness controls in every granting of liberty, and in every attempt to secure more liberty and privilege for self these would be granted to others. Merely the conflict of interests at the present time preserves to the world the measure of liberty which it now enjoys.
The third class has a conception of liberty which neither of the other two classes can understand or appreciate—the liberty to serve and to do good to all men along the lines not of selfishness but of love for all. This Christian ideal is to the world in general foolishness. While they have grown to respect the great Teacher and his apostles who set forth this Christian view of liberty, they feel privileged to denounce as foolish the living representatives of this same doctrine—that the perfect law of liberty is love and service to God and our neighbor. Those who advocate and practice love from this Scriptural standpoint are by their fellows "counted fools all the day long," denounced as impractical, unsophistical, and sometimes reprobated as hypocrites.
All the liberty there is in the world today has been paid for: none of it has been attained without sacrificers. Why? Because selfishness is so entrenched in the race that those who possess power, authority, privilege, opportunity, would hold these for themselves to the disadvantage of others, to the enslavement of others, were not the rights and liberties fought for. Looking back over the history of nations, without approving of wars, every reasoning mind can see, nevertheless, that only through wars have liberties come to the race. The mistake that is being made by many today is the supposition that humanity would ever be able to attain the condition of absolute equality and unselfishness through laws or wars or any other means within the power of Adam's race.
The Scriptures point out to us that there is a limit beyond which we must not expect selfish humanity to make progress—that any progress beyond that limit must come from on high, through the establishment of the Kingdom of God's dear Son; that while wealth and influence and talents will yield to the pressure of the masses for their own protection and aggrandizement, they will not yield everything, but would permit the entire social structure to dissolve rather than to submit to a general equalization, as is the aim of Socialism. Hence Socialism, while not intending anarchy, will produce anarchy; while striving for greater liberty and universality of blessings of earth it will effect a wreck of all these. Thanks be to God that his program is that on this wreck of present institutions he will establish the true reign of liberty on the plane of love, under the guidance of the Master and his joint-heirs.
If the world's liberty has required fighting for, much more may we expect to battle for those who take the still higher ground of the Bible, and who strive for the "liberty wherewith Christ makes free." (Gal. 5:1.) For although this very Scripture declares that Christ gives this freedom, the Word shows us that he gives it only to those who desire it and who will fight for it. Their battle is not to be with carnal weapons which the law of love forbids, yet their [R3858 : page 296] warfare is to be mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds of error. Against what, then, do they battle? We answer that their chief fight is against the fallen tendencies of their own beings. They find that, through the long centuries of the fall, sin has become inbred and entrenched in their flesh to such a degree that it necessitates a warfare in the new mind. They get the new mind or disposition through hearkening to the word of the Lord, which, while speaking peace and forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ, invites to a newness of nature and a joint-heirship with Christ through a full consecration of all to the divine service—to the service of righteousness and truth. The making of the consecration on the part of the believer was his entering upon the career of a good soldier of the Lord Jesus. It was his engagement to battle against sin and selfishness everywhere, according to the rules laid down by the chief Captain.
To the surprise of every soldier he finds that some of his greatest battles are within. True he finds the world an opponent to his full devotion of time and talent and influence to the service of the Truth. The world is not prepared for such an extreme, which more or less reproves it of sin and selfishness: the world, therefore, sneers and cries "hypocrite," "saint," etc., and seeks to turn aside the consecrated. To be a good soldier he must be prepared for this and have on the sandals of preparation afforded by the Gospel, else the difficulties strewn in his path by worldly opposition would soon make him so footsore that he would be disposed to turn back notwithstanding the term of his enlistment—"even unto death." The Adversary also is a foe who must be reckoned with, and whose subtle attacks may be encountered in various ways. The Christian soldier has the assurance of his Captain that all the arts of the Adversary are known to him, and that all his interests shall be guarded so long as he is loyal to his Captain and faithful to his consecration and enlistment.
But, as we have said, the chiefest of all the Christian soldier's opponents is the human foe—the weaknesses and cravings and demands and subtle persecutions, etc., of the fallen conditions of his own mind and body. To his surprise he finds himself a slave to his own weaknesses, and that he must battle daily, hourly almost, for victory, in order to attain fully the liberty wherewith Christ makes free indeed. From this standpoint all battles against our own fleshly weaknesses, our own selfish instincts and propensities, are battles for liberty, battles for right, battles on the Lord's side. Our great Captain is not so much wishing us to fight his battles as wishing us to fight the good fight of faith in ourselves, and in this matter he is ready to assist us, and without him we can do nothing. True, our battles extend beyond ourselves sometimes when, either amongst the Lord's brethren and the Church, we need to battle for the Truth, the right, or in our contact with the world we may sometimes find hostilities necessary.
Amongst the Lord's people, even in the apostles' day, there was a tendency at times to fight each other rather than to fight the devil and the spirit of the world and the weaknesses within. The organs of combativeness and destructiveness, which would serve a Christian soldier in good stead if directed against his own weaknesses and blemishes, are sadly out of place when, ignoring his own weaknesses, he merely becomes contentious with the brethren—often over nothing, or over questions whose importance he exaggerates, because of his contentious spirit. Such should remember the Scriptural statement that greater is he that ruleth his own spirit than he that taketh a city. (Prov. 16:32.) The Apostle refers to that misdirection of Christian energy which bites and devours one another, and tends to the destruction of all that is spiritual amongst the Lord's people. Not that the Apostle favored slackness as respects the important [R3858 : page 297] principles of the divine revelation, for he himself urged that we contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. (Jude 3.) But this earnest contending is not to be done in a biting and devouring manner—it is to be with patience and long suffering, brotherly kindness, love.
The Lord's people have enlisted as New Creatures, Spirit begotten, to walk [to live] not after the flesh but after the Spirit, and must continually recognize this fact, and keep watch that they are walking in line with the spirit of truth, and must know that in so doing they will not be fulfilling the desires of their fallen flesh. The Apostle states this as a positive rule, without exception, that the flesh, the natural inclinations, tendencies, lusts or desires, are contrary to the Spirit, and likewise the Spirit desires are contrary to the flesh. These two desires being opposed one to the other we cannot gratify both, and whichever is gratified it will be so at the expense of the other. If we ever want to attain to the true liberty wherewith Christ makes free we should know that it can only be by a persistent warfare of the new mind against every sinful tendency and inclination of the old nature. It is not the new will warring against the old, for the old will we have reckoned dead. It is the new will warring against the flesh, which the old will used to control, and which flesh still has its evil tendencies.
The new will, therefore, needs all the sustaining strength and assistance which it can secure. Many of these are provided for it as food, nourishment, strength, through the Word of God, whose exceeding great and precious promises are given in order that the new will may be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might through faith, and conquer in all of its battles with the flesh.
The Apostle's declaration, "Ye cannot do the things which ye would," is in full accord with all our experiences. We can sometimes do as we would in some things, we can gain the victory over the flesh; but there are certain weaknesses, failings, blemishes in our flesh which are so powerful that the new mind never gets as complete a mastery over them as it desires. Nevertheless in all the battles being waged the new mind grows stronger and stronger while the flesh grows weaker and weaker. The Scriptural proposition, however, is that we must expect to have more or less of these battles until our dying moments. Thank God that will be the end of the strife, for in the resurrection we are promised new bodies, perfect, complete, in which the new mind will be able to exercise itself without conflict. That is the rest which remains for the people of God, and associated with it will be various other blessings, honors, dignities and responsibilities which the Lord has promised.
The Jewish Law was prominent before the minds of the early Church, because the majority had come to Christ through Judaism. The Law had its requirements and exactions and condemnations, and it was difficult for the early Church to comprehend the liberty which was properly theirs in Christ. Their minds would waver as between the gift of grace in Christ and the rewards of the Law, and hence they were continually in trouble because of a realization of the imperfection of their flesh. The Apostle urges the point that those who have accepted Christ are no longer under the Law Covenant, hoping for eternal life under its impossible conditions. The Law could only approve that which was perfect, and while believers realize that their hearts, their wills, their intentions, are perfect, they realize also the imperfection of their flesh.
The Apostle's argument therefore is, "If ye be led of the Spirit then are ye not under the Law." (Gal. 5:18.) That is to say, You who have accepted Christ, and who are now walking according to the new mind to the best of your ability, are following the lead of the Spirit, and you have nothing to do with the Law, and it cannot condemn you as imperfect because of your fleshly weaknesses, for you are protected under the robe of Christ's righteousness, and the divine arrangement is that so long as you are following the Spirit, following the new mind, seeking to walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit, that long you are justified, approved of the Lord, and the imperfections of your flesh that are contrary to your best endeavors are not charged to your account, but to the Lord Jesus' account. Those unwilling imperfections were all laid upon him who bore our sins in his own body on the tree, as his perfections have been applied to us through faith to cover those unwilling blemishes.
While the Law Covenant was nailed to Jesus' cross it does not mean that there is no law covering the Lord's people. The very essence of the divine law is love for God and for man, and the Apostle points out that our course as Christians walking after the Spirit of Christ would be condemned by no law of God; but on the contrary, if neglecting our consecration to the Lord we walk after the flesh, there would be condemnation against us because judged according to the Spirit, the intention of our hearts, we are either approved or disapproved by the divine law of love.
The works of the flesh the Apostle enumerates, and they are all violations of the law of love under which the New Creatures in Christ are being examined; they all come under the head of selfishness and imply injury to our fellow-creatures. He enumerates these: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, malice, wrath, strife, divisions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like. The Apostle points out that anyone begotten of the Spirit who walks, that is who lives, along the lines of these works of the flesh need have no hope of any share in the Kingdom of Heaven. He does not say that all such would share in the Second Death, [R3859 : page 297] but we know of a surety how such conduct persisted in would ultimately result in the Second Death. It is sufficient for our purpose, however, to leave the matter where the Apostle does, and to note that there is no prospect for a share in the Kingdom for any who do these works of the flesh and of the devil.
It is unfortunate for some that they seem unable to realize the scope of this testimony; they seem to think of adultery, drunkenness and murder as being the crimes that would debar from a share in the Kingdom. They overlook the fact that the Lord defined adultery to be a desire to do evil where only the opportunity is lacking; that he defined murder as represented in that condition of heart which hates a brother. They overlook the statement of the Apostle in this very list that the spirit of variance, the spirit of ambition and jealousy, the spirit of envy and division, are spirits of the flesh and in opposition to the New Creature led by the [R3859 : page 298] holy Spirit. O, if all of the Lord's people could have in mind these searching tests and apply them to their own lives, what a profit would result, what a blessing, what a fleeing from these weaknesses of the old nature, what a fighting against them for the liberty of the New Creature and its final attainment to glory, honor and immortality with their Lord in the Kingdom!
Having pointed out to us what would constitute walking after the flesh, the Apostle next indicates the conditions and experiences which should assure the Lord's people that they are not only soldiers of the cross and followers of the Lamb, but that they are fighting a good fight, gaining victories over the flesh. He suggests that if we are begotten of the Spirit and guided thereby there will be a fruitage in our life which will be manifest to ourselves and should to some extent also be apparent to others. This "fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance."
There is no law of God against these things, these qualities, these characteristics of the new nature, and very rarely will any law amongst men be found in opposition to them, although indirectly those who practice these things will be unpopular with the world as well as with the adversary and have trying experiences as a result—experiences, however, which persevered in will work out a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. On the contrary, he who lacks such fruit in his heart, in his mind, in his experiences, lacks the evidence which he should have of his faithfulness as a good soldier in warring against the old nature. He lacks therefore the full assurance of faith, without which as a New Creature he could not have peace and joy. It will be observed that all these fruits of the Spirit are contrary to selfishness. If the Lord's people could but come to the place where daily, morning noon and night, they would have self-examinations to see to what extent they are growing these fruits of the Spirit and to what extent they are rooting out the works of the flesh, it would be to the comfort and joy of all who are in the right condition. Though it might be to the discouragement of others, it would be a discouragement which eventually would be to them advantageous and in the end would hinder them from making shipwreck.
Pursuing his subject, showing why we should fight against our natural desires and inclinations toward things that are selfish and sinful, the Apostle declared that they that are Christ's [his consecrated ones, prospective members of his Bride] have crucified the flesh, with the passions and lusts thereof. What does he mean?—that those who have accepted Christ as their sin offering, believing that the crucified one paid their ransom price, have counted their flesh in as though crucified with Christ, saying, Since sin cost the crucifixion of our Redeemer we will be opposed to sin and dead to sin forever. The thought is that whoever has clearly and intelligently accepted Christ as his Savior from sin will be so opposed to sin that he will count his own flesh as condemned to death and be hoping for the new body, the spiritual, and be willing that his flesh should die a lingering death until the last gasp, so strong will be his opposition to sin and everything allied therewith, so strong will his sympathy be with God and the Redeemer, and the holiness which they represent.
"If we live in the Spirit let us also walk in the Spirit," the Apostle adds. That is to say, begotten of the Spirit we reckon ourselves New Creatures, spirit beings, not yet perfect. To us old things are passed away, the things of sin, and all things have become new in harmony with the exceeding great and precious hopes which have been begotten in us by the Lord's promises. If these be true, let us walk, let us live our daily life accordingly, in harmony with this thought—as New Creatures in Christ, not as men energized by their ambitions or projects, not as taking pleasure in the things contrary to the new nature.
As before suggested, while our difficulties arise from our own fallen flesh, they are apt to manifest themselves in the affairs of the Church. The old spirit of selfishness inclines to be ambitious for influence, power, authority, glory amongst the brethren, overlooking the fact that such vainglory and envyings are entirely contrary to the Spirit of the Lord, by which we have been begotten—entirely overlooking the fact that while this ambitious spirit dominates us in any measure we are unfit for the Kingdom and will have proportionately less and less of the Lord's favor and blessing and guidance in our hearts and heads. Hence the Apostle urges, "Let us not be vainglorious, provoking one another, envying one another." Whoever manifests a vainglorious spirit tempts another in the same direction through retaliation, and thus there is a provoking or inciting to an evil course; whereas the Apostle urges, on the contrary, that the New Creatures in Christ should provoke or incite one another to love and good works, that would be to their mutual advantage and development.
The compilers of this lesson here introduce Galatians 6:7,8 very appropriately. The theme is the same. We might succeed in deceiving ourselves, possibly succeed in deceiving others into thinking that we are spiritual, walking after the Spirit, while really heady, highminded, vainglorious and envious, but, says the Apostle, we could never deceive God. For such to claim that they were walking after the Spirit and not after the flesh would be mocking God, would imply that God could not read the heart and discern the motive. And the Apostle suggests that in God's arrangement we are sure to reap the very crop we sow. If, in our daily intercourse with the family, the brethren and the world, we allow the envious, selfish, vainglorious, ambitious spirit to control, with more or less of anger, hatred, strife, and dissension, we may surely expect the legitimate crop will not become the reverse of this; instead of finding ourselves in the resurrection copies of God's dear Son, we will find ourselves wholly unfit for the company of the elect.
But, on the other hand, if we sow to the Spirit—that is, if in the daily affairs of life we seek to have our hearts and minds in full accord and sympathy with the Spirit or the Lord, as presented to us in his Word and exemplified in our Redeemer and the apostles—then we may have the assurance with God that he will not forget us however weak we may be, however insignificant according to the flesh, but we will be remembered of him in the resurrection and be granted a share with all the overcomers in his Kingdom; we will reap of the Spirit the spiritual body, as the Apostle intimates, "For he that soweth unto his flesh shall of the flesh reap [R3859 : page 299] corruption; death, but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." We are to remember, however, that this sowing and reaping is done by the New Creature, the new mind, the new will, and not by the flesh. However weak and imperfect the flesh may be, God judgeth us not thereby. On the contrary, he looketh upon the heart, upon the intention, upon the will, and his reward or condemnation will be according to what our hearts have desired and endeavored. He will count us as victors if loyally and firmly we endure hardness as good soldiers, faithful to the end.
Those who arranged the lesson series designed this for a lesson on temperance, and chose as the Golden Text, "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging." (Prov. 20:1.) While we trust that few if any of the readers of this journal need special exhortation along this line, we do desire to express our full sympathy with the temperance cause. From our standpoint of observation, intoxicating liquors, while not the root of all evil, may well be said to be the root of much of the crime of our day. Surely no consecrated child of God could feel that he was in line with the divine will if, yielding to his appetites, he became intoxicated. If he did not feel ashamed of himself surely the hearts of all right-minded saints would burn in sympathy for him. The cost of alcoholic beverages consumed in so-called Christendom is enormous, and nothing could better demonstrate, we think, that the name "Christendom," signifying Christ's Kingdom, has been misapplied. When Christ's Kingdom shall rule the world, we believe that a great change will be effected along the lines of temperance. The cost of intemperance is not merely measured by the cost of the liquors consumed, but also by the crimes and the diseases attendant.
The American Grocer prepares yearly an estimate of the drink bill of the people of the United States. These figures, while not official, are recognized as being the best data obtainable on the question. Of course, much of the work is estimated, as is shown by the statement that liquor is figured on the basis of sixty drinks [R3860 : page 299] to the gallon, the average price per drink being taken at seven and a half cents. The entire drink bill for stimulants is placed at the enormous total of almost one and one-half billion dollars, far more than the bonded indebtedness of the United States, and almost three times the ordinary yearly expenditures of the Government, exclusive of the postal item. On a per-capita basis this means more than eighteen dollars a year, the more harmless stimulants, such as tea, coffee, and cocoa, accounting for less than three dollars, while alcoholic beverages make up the remainder. Of course, no small part of this drink bill goes into public treasuries either as internal revenue, as custom duties, or to the various municipalities in license fees, etc.; but the drink bill is a great burden on the people, a burden that cannot be fairly measured by the cost alone of the liquors consumed. To the over indulgence in alcoholic stimulants must be attributed the greater part of the crime and poverty in the country. Were those all reckoned into the accounting, our national drink bill would be advanced from its present figures, large as they are, to a total that would be appalling.—Boston Herald, May, 1905.
"Rot of barley, rot of corn.
That's where Alcohol is born,
To his rotten nature true,
To rot is all that he can do.
Rotten men and rotten boys;
Rotten hopes and rotten joys;
Rotten slums of degradation;
Rotten politics in the nation.
Rotten ballots, rotten laws;
Parties with a rotten cause;
Nursed on nature's rotting juices,
Rot is all that it produces."
A story is current in the Orient of a wise old sheik, who gave to a young Arab prince, from whom he was about to part, a list of crimes, and bade him choose the one which seemed least harmful. The young prince turned in horror from murder, theft and loss of virtue, and told the patriarch he would choose intemperance. "You have chosen that," said the wise old man, "which will bring you all."