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"For I could wish that myself were accursed from
Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen, according
to the flesh."—Romans 9:3 .
THIS is one of the most patriotic expressions to be found in the Bible. It is comparable only to the request by Moses in respect to the Children of Israel, that if God would blot out Israel, he should blot out him also from his book of remembrance and special favor. We have a very high estimation of St. Paul's generosity of heart and loyalty of mind to his kinsmen, the Jews, and also for that of the great Law-Giver.
We are not, we think, to understand this as though it merely read, I do wish myself accursed. Neither are we to understand this expression to signify, I could wish myself damned; but rather, I could wish myself cut off from membership in the Body of Christ, if by my being cut off it could be so arranged, in harmony with the Heavenly Father's will and provision, that it would benefit my brethren, my nation—so that as a whole nation the Israelites would constitute the Royal Priesthood and become Israel on the spiritual plane. I perceive that they do not realize how much they are missing. I feel such a grief for them, that having received the promises centuries ago and having hoped in these promises (many still hope in them) they are now so blinded as to reject the favors of God, because it was not on a spiritual plane that they anticipated them. If my being cut off from fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ as a member of that Body of glory would thus benefit them and were to put me down on the plane of the "Great Company," instead of my being one of those who would share in the glory of the Kingdom, I would be well pleased, indeed, if it were God's will, that thus I might have the satisfaction of knowing that I had been such a blessing to my own people.
We confess that the Apostle's attitude on this subject is marvelous. We cannot doubt his sincerity. He was proving this in all of his course of life. For one to will to sacrifice his place in the Body of Christ for the sake of the multitude of his sinful nation, is something very [R4692 : page 312] wonderful. This, however, is not an example to us—that we should say that if we could bring some of our children or friends into the Truth we would be willing to be cut off for the benefit of these, and thus to subordinate ourselves and take the lower position. It is our privilege to take the position God has offered us, but those who may be able to rise up to so high a standard are worthy of admiration because of the grandeur of character implied. St. Paul's great unselfishness was one of his grand traits, and we think it would be well for each of us to cultivate that trait to a greater degree, looking to the interest of the brethren, willing to subordinate our own preferences and our own ways in certain particulars if we can see that this would be an aid to others, especially an aid to a number of others. This is the Spirit of Christ; this is certainly in full accord with all the instructions of the Lord—that we should humble ourselves, and in honor prefer one another, even to the extent of self-sacrifice. The Apostle's course was self-abnegation to an extent, however, that we do not understand the Lord has demanded, although he has said, "we ought to lay down our lives (our human lives) for the brethren."
In a sense, we might say that the Jewish nation stood related to Saint Paul in much the same way that the nominal Christian church of today stands related to the fully consecrated. They are our brethren by a nominal consecration or nominal profession. Such a relationship we ought to feel, we think. We believe this text encourages us to feel a great deal of interest in these brethren, and to be willing to do a great deal to help them. We do not know how many may really be saints and merely for the time blinded by the errors which the Adversary has caused to be promulgated. "The god of this world hath blinded the minds of those who believe not." (2 Cor. 4:4.) We understand these words, "believe not," to apply not only to an entire lack of faith, but to apply also to the various imperfect degrees of development of faith in ourselves and in others. What is it that has hindered us from reaching the very highest attainment of that which God has provided for us? Some of these errors are standing in the way. Where did they come from. They came from our Adversary.
And he it is who has completely blinded the heathen and has darkened the understanding of Christians, and we ought to be glad to do all in our power to remove those blinding influences. To whatever extent we do this, to whatever extent we are of aid to our brethren in the nominal church, it will make us proportionately sympathetic with them—not with the systems that are contrary to the teachings of the Word, but sympathetic with the people who are blinded by the teachings of those systems—not sympathetic with the blindness, but with those who are experiencing the blindness. The Apostle seems to give the thought of a gradual obliteration of blindness when he speaks of "the eyes of your understanding opening ye might be able to comprehend with all saints," etc. So we see that in our own cases it is a gradual opening of the eyes of our understanding, and this progresses in proportion as we get free from the power of Satan and his blinding influences. We get free from these influences in proportion as we lay hold upon the Lord Jesus Christ and his wonderful provision made for our liberation, that we might ultimately stand free in the liberty wherewith Christ makes us free. He makes us free as the Emancipation Proclamation made the slaves free. And yet, after the proclamation is made, it is one thing to learn of our liberty and another thing to avail ourselves of that liberty and thus to become actually free. It takes, perhaps, months or years to gain this full liberty from blindness. "Let not sin, therefore, have dominion over you."