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ALAS! how few realize what a dangerous thing is liberty; how carefully it must be used for our benefit, and how easily it might be misused to our eternal danger. Because God created us free agents; because this is part of his likeness, and because, additionally, ambition must be a part of every progressive individual, therefore this free agency and ambition in conjunction bring us all under tests of character. And the greater our abilities, the more our talents and the wider our influence, the stronger the power of ambition may become. Then comes the test. Will this laudable ambition be subject to the Divine Will—thoroughly consecrated to do the Lord's will even unto death?
If our devotion to the Lord be absolute, fully in control of our thoughts and words and doings, our liberty and largest ambition will be rightly directed and eventuate in blessings to ourselves and to others. But if the Divine will be not first and absolutely in control of our wills, the more ambition and the more liberty we have the greater will be our danger. Where the Lord is not reverenced—obeyed with heart, mind, soul and strength—some one else has an influence in our hearts—husband or wife, parents or children, or, more than probably, self. We cannot be overcomers except as our hearts are absolutely loyal to the Lord, with self-will and every other will thoroughly subjected to the Divine Will. This is the lesson of life to those who would come off conquerors. How we rejoice, in every struggle, when finally, by God's grace, we recover balance!
It is not to be wondered at that the more prominent brethren have the more severe trials along this line. Of this condition of things the Apostle forewarns us, saying, Be not many of you teachers, knowing that he who is a teacher will experience the more severe trials. The deflection of some recognized as teachers will cause special trials to others not teachers, and will prove to what extent they have a personal relationship to the Lord through his Word and through an individual consecration to him and through his instructions by his Word and the prophecies—in the School of Christ. We fear that too many are in an attitude of leaning upon others whose fall might bring them disaster. It is because we have long recognized this principle that, in our writings, we have presented the Lord's message as his message, and not as our own, giving the chapter and verse for every doctrine.
If any are leaning on anything but the Lord's Word for guidance, to these we say that we have striven to bring all of the members of the Body into direct personal contact with the Head, and, while not ignoring the value of books and sermons, we have, nevertheless, urged upon all the necessity of proving, to the extent of their ability, every item of truth which they receive. Notwithstanding this we fear that many lean upon us and upon others. We fully know that we are in the evil day, and that the armor that the Lord provides is to be put on by each one of his faithful soldiers of the cross. We will use our shield, breastplate, helmet, and sword in the defence, as much as possible, of all the Lord's people; but each must see to it that he put on this armament for himself. The great King of the Universe has provided it, the great Captain of our salvation, Jesus, has invited us to put it on, and we, as corporal, merely call attention to the Captain's order. Whoever is negligent will surely rue it.
The time for adjusting this armor is very short. The battle is on. Many are falling at our side. What we do should be done energetically, systematically, thoroughly—at once. It is important that we help others to the extent of our ability, but still more important, according to the Divine Will, that we should take heed to ourselves and make our own calling and election sure. It has been our observation that some who have come into the Truth quite recently are much more clear in it, and have the armor better adjusted, and are able to use the Sword of the Spirit better, than some who have been in the Truth for five, ten, and even twenty years. Indeed, it is our observation that some who have been long in the Truth are less skillful today in the use of the armor than they were years ago. Why is this? And what is the remedy? The answer is a simple one, manifest to all.
Divine Providence has furnished the people of God at [R4709 : page 357] this time an outline of the Divine Plan and a detail of Bible doctrines such as God's people never before had in their possession. Without claiming any inspiration for these STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES, we surely may claim a Divine supervision in respect to the matter which they contain and the time of their presentation. Whoever admits that we are in the harvest time at all—that we have been in it since 1875—must acknowledge this also, that the Lord promised that at that time he would cause [R4710 : page 357] his people to sit down to a bountiful repast of spiritual food and that he would be their servant and bring forth to them "things new and old." (Luke 12:37.) All who recognize these things must recognize these STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES as being identified with the fulfillment of that promise.
It would be giving too much honor to any man to suppose that the general elucidation of Divine Truth through these volumes should be merely one man's opinion. No one who understands these things can possibly believe that one man in our day could fabricate a theory which puts all other theories of this and every other day completely into the shadow, as a tallow dip in comparison to the most wonderful arc lights of our day. Neither is there reason or sense in the attempt of some to claim that these SCRIPTURE STUDIES are merely a rehash of what has been believed for centuries. True, they present the doctrines of Election, Free Grace, etc., but not as these subjects were presented nor as they are now presented by many. These books discuss the Bible texts and set them in order, as showing their relationship to each other. But while these presentations are harmonious, they are not accepted by Calvinism and Arminianism. Although they cannot refute them, they secretly oppose them—oppose the only presentation which shows the true significance of the Bible texts which they use in a private and isolated manner. We repeat, then, that STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES are either of the Lord's providence or else they are one of the greatest miracles.
The secret of the clearness and power of some who have come recently into the Truth can be traced to the fact that they have been diligently using these Divinely provided helps for Bible study. On the contrary, many of those who today are less clear in the Truth than they were years ago owe their loss of spiritual vigor and clear perception of the Truth to the fact that they have neglected this Divine provision for their needs. They have followed the worldly thought—that, having digested what some other man has thought, believed and taught, they should break fresh ground for themselves, in hope of bringing forth still brighter jewels from the Divine Word. Some of these diggers have searched long and carefully, but have found nothing, brought forth nothing, that has specially sparkled as a gem of Truth for the eyes of the Lord's people. Some of them have sought far and near for other fruits and viands for the table of the Lord's family, but have added little, if anything, to that which the great Provider has set before us of "things new and old." Some of these would-be new dishes, new viands, set before the Church have proven to be unhealthful, indigestible, visionary, and calculated to give a fever, rather than real spiritual strength. Others, failing of their ambitions in these directions, have become destructive and have uttered what some of the friends have outlined a "Midnight Howl" against the food that the Lord has prepared, against his service of his people, etc.
All these things are tests. The sooner we realize this fact, the better for us. We have no fear but that the great Shepherd, now present with his sheep and gathering out of all the various pens of Christendom those who know his voice, will not suffer the wolves to stampede his flock, nor to devour them. Has he not said, "The Father who gave them to me is greater than all, and none can pluck them out of my Father's hand."
The lesson to us all is, "Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time." Be not heady, high-minded and worldly-wise, but humble, teachable and full of faith in the Divine promises, which are so rapidly fulfilling and culminating in this day of his preparation.