N.B.—Those of the interested, who by reason of old age or accidents, or other adversity, are unable to pay, will be supplied FREE, if they will send a Postal Card each December, stating their case and requesting the paper.
Speaking in the United States Senate, on January 21st, Senator Peffer gave evidence of having the eyes of his understanding somewhat open, respecting what is coming. He is reported to have used the following language:
"A day of retribution is coming—a day of reckoning is nigh at hand. The people will smite their enemy. In their wrath this great crime will be avenged. Standing as I do in the night of the Nineteenth century, and looking toward the dawn of the Twentieth, I see coming a wave of fire and blood. I pray God that it may spend its force on the sea. Behind me is Rome, and before, God alone in his infinite wisdom knows."
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:—In my work at S__________(a town of 30,000 inhabitants) I found some who are likely to be greatly blessed by the truth. I put out about ninety DAWNS in the seven days I had at that place, and sold about 253 of the Old Theology tracts. While my idea in going there was principally to get a better knowledge of the smaller cities of England, the Lord perhaps brought it about in order to send the truth to some of his sheep there, who seemed to be very hungry. And I must say that the Lord's hand can be seen in so many of the movements in connection with the work here that it is very encouraging, although the results in some ways have not been quite what I expected. For instance, in a neighboring city, a little company of "holiness" people had, for a year or more, been working very earnestly in their way till a few months since, when the Lord led them to see that they were not in the right way. For two or three months they had been waiting to know the Lord's will; and about a month or six weeks since they began to feel that the Lord was going to send them the truth through "some man" as one of his messengers. Then, shortly before leaving, entirely unbeknown to these waiting ones, it was arranged to hold two meetings at the home of Brother and Sister Bivens who knew of the attitude of these friends, and afterwards invited them to the meetings.
After the first meeting two or three of these said that, as soon as they heard the voice of the speaker, they felt sure that he had what they had been waiting for. There are six of this little company in particular that I met, and they availed themselves of every opportunity to hear the message. After the second meeting I put the DAWNS in their hands, and trust that they are now entering into the joys of present truth.
I reached the great metropolis on Dec. 26th. At my request the brethren had appointed the evenings of the 28th and 29th for special prayer and communion in the interests of the harvest work in London and Great Britain generally. Together we thanked the Lord for the many favors of the past, and asked for more love and wisdom and strength, both for ourselves and all who have entered into the secret of his presence and the knowledge of the Kingdom to which we are called. The dear brethren here seem rejoiced to see me, and I need hardly say that you and Sister Russell and all the saints in America are much spoken of in their prayers.
Could you tell all the colporteurs through the TOWER of the possibilities and privilege of disposing of the Old Theology tracts at two cents or one penny each, in many places where the DAWNS can not be sold?r1616 VOL. XV. FEBRUARY 1, 1894. NO. 3.
r1616 THE BOOK OF GENESIS - II.
I. QUAR., LESSON VI., FEB. 11, GEN. 17:1-9.
Golden Text—"He believed in the Lord, and he counted it to him for righteousness."—Gen. 15:6.
God had promised to make a definite covenant with Abram before he left his native land, Haran. (Gen. 12:1-4.) He actually made that covenant after Abram had complied with the conditions and come into the land of Canaan. (Gen. 12:6,7.) And now, in the words of this lesson, we find God encouraging Abram's faith by amplifying and explaining that covenant, and counseling him to continue to keep his heart in the proper attitude to receive such favors, saying, "I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will perform my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly."
The covenant was to give all "the land of Canaan" to Abram and to his seed for an everlasting possession. The terms of the covenant clearly indicate an earthly inheritance, an inheritance of that which Abram actually saw with his natural eyes. And Abraham (for his name was here changed as a confirmation of the covenant) [R1617 : page 45] believed the word of the Lord, and never relaxed his faith, even to his dying day; for, says Paul, he "died in faith, not having received the promises; but, having seen them afar off, he was persuaded of them and embraced them" (Heb. 11:13), although, during his past life, as Stephen said, "God gave him none inheritance in the land; no, not so much as to set his foot on; yet he promised that he would give it to him and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child."—Acts 7:5.
That was indeed a remarkable covenant, and a wonderful manifestation of the favor of God toward his faithful servant Abraham; and it was a remarkable faith on the part of Abraham which was able to grasp and appreciate a promise whose realization must be beyond the floods of death; and extending to a posterity so numerous as to be beyond all hope of reckoning.
But, great as was Abraham's faith, there was a feature of that covenant of which it was impossible for him to have the slightest conception; for it was to have both a literal and an anti-typical fulfilment. This we are enabled to see from subsequent divine revelations through the Apostle Paul, who shows that the seed of Abraham was to be understood in two senses: that there was to be a natural seed, an Israel after the flesh (1 Cor. 10:18), and a spiritual seed, "which seed is Christ" (Head and body): "and if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's [antitypical] seed and heirs of the [antitypical] promise" (Gal. 3:7,29), which includes a much more glorious inheritance than the earthly possessions of the fleshly seed, rich indeed though their portion will be; for Christ is the heir of all things, and those who are Christ's are heirs together with him of all things. All things are yours, for ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's, who created all things by and for his well beloved Son.—Heb. 1:2; Rom. 8:17; 1 Cor. 3:21-23; Col. 1:16.
A hint of this double significance of the promise to Abraham was given for our benefit in the illustrations which God gave of his numerous posterity. They were to be as the sand by the sea-shore and as the stars of heaven (Gen. 22:17)—the former an apt illustration of the fleshly, and the latter of the spiritual seed.
Let all those who are of the faith of Abraham mark these precious promises and follow them up until, the eyes of their understanding being opened, they see by faith the city established for which Abraham looked, the city which hath foundations, the glorious Kingdom of God in both its earthly and heavenly phases. (Heb. 11:9,10. See MILLENNIAL DAWN, VOL. I., Chap. xiv.) The prophet Micah describes its coming glory (Micah 4:1-7) and says that, when the children of Abraham do thus come into possession of the land, they shall rest there in peace; for the nations shall have beaten their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks, and nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they have war any more. Then "they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and none shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it." And we believe it, because we are of the faith of Abraham, and know that all that the Lord has promised he is able to perform.
And not only so, but to-day we stand upon the very threshold of that new dispensation—the Millennial reign of Christ, when all of these things are shortly to be fulfilled—when Abraham himself shall return from the captivity of death (Isa. 61:1; Luke 4:18), when his natural seed also shall return and possess the land; and when God will take away their stony hearts and give them a heart of flesh and enable them to keep his covenant and to walk before him with a perfect heart and make them indeed a channel of blessing to all the families of the earth. (Ezek. 11:19,20.) See MILLENNIAL DAWN, VOLS. I & II.
I. QUAR., LESSON VII., FEB. 18, GEN. 18:22-33.
Golden Text—"Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"—Gen. 18:25.
The subject of this lesson is an important one, though the limits assigned do not cover the event, which includes all of chapter 18, and chapter 19:1-28. Though the narrative is familiar to every Bible reader, its lessons have been very generally overlooked.
Before considering these it is well to note, in corroboration of our observations on lesson iv., concerning the ministration of angels prior to the beginning of the law dispensation, (1) how promptly they were recognized by those to whom they appeared. Although these appeared in human form, Abraham very quickly recognized them as [R1617 : page 46] more than human, and honored them accordingly. So also Lot recognized them; and, because he honored them as the messengers of the Lord, he sought to protect them from the Sodomite mob, even at the expense of his virgin daughters if need be. But while Abraham and Lot recognized them as the angels of God, the men of Sodom thought them to be only men. Nor were Abraham and Lot excited, or in the least disconcerted by the honor of such a visit. They received their remarkable guests with becoming dignity and grace, and with great composure; not with superstitious fear, nor as if it were a thing hitherto unknown; but as a rare occurrence and a special honor.
(2) Note also the expression of one of these heavenly visitants—one of the three representatives of Jehovah, possibly his beloved Son, afterward our Savior. Speaking for Jehovah, he said, (verse 17), "Shall I conceal from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation," etc.? "The secret of the Lord is with them that reverence him," says the Psalmist. (Psa. 25:14.) Thus it was in Abraham's day, and thus it is still. The Lord does not honor the world, nor the worldly wise, with a knowledge of his secret purposes.—Dan. 12:10; 1 Cor. 1:19,20; 3:18,19.
In verses 22-33 we have the account of Abraham's pleading with the Lord for the possible righteous souls that might yet remain in Sodom, and an illustration of the promise that the fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (Jas. 5:16.) But when not even ten righteous persons were found in Sodom, the four that were found were first gathered out before the visitation of wrath descended on the condemned city; for "the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry."
Coming now to consider the severe judgment upon Sodom, let us note its prominent lessons carefully—(1) We see that the city was wholly given up to wickedness and the basest immoralities. Not even a strange man was safe in coming among them. Sin had there reached that dreadful enormity to which the Apostle Paul seems to have reference in Rom. 1:18-32. See also Jude 7 and Ezek. 16:49,50. They were sinning, too, against sufficient knowledge from the light of nature, as Paul indicates, so that they were, as he affirms, "without excuse."
(3) We observe next that the penalty inflicted upon them was not eternal torment, but a cutting short of the present life with its privileges and advantages: "I took them away as I saw good, saith the Lord." (Ezek. 16:50.) And by the same prophet he declares [R1618 : page 46] his intention to bring them back, together with wayward Israel, the children of the covenant, saying, "When I shall bring again the captivity of Sodom and her daughters, and the captivity of Samaria and her daughters, then will I bring again the captivity of thy captives in the midst of them....I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant. Then thou shalt remember thy ways and be ashamed when thou shalt receive thy sisters, thine elder and thy younger [Samaria and Sodom—Verse 46]. And I will give them unto thee for daughters, but not by thy covenant. And I will establish my covenant with thee; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord: That thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more, because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done [which he declares to be worse than Sodom had done—Verses 47,48], saith the Lord Jehovah."
When the Lord thus declares his purposes, and that in full view and statement of all the circumstances, and signs his name to the document, there is no room left for cavil or doubt. Wicked Sodom and Samaria and Israel and all the families of the earth shall be brought back from the captivity of death—the only captivity which could possibly be referred to here; for this was spoken long after Sodom was laid in ashes. Nor was there a single Sodomite left to perpetuate the name; for it is written that, "the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all." (Luke 17:29; Gen. 19:24,25.) Our Lord also adds his testimony saying, "Marvel not at this, for the hour is coming in which all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of man and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of judgment"*—trial. (John 5:27-29.)
[R1618 : page 47] And the Apostle Paul states, "There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust."—Acts 24:15.
The statement of Jude 7 that "Sodom and Gomorrah are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire," may be thought by some to be at variance with the above quoted scriptures. But not so. The word of the Lord spoken by prophets and apostles and by the Lord Jesus himself must of necessity be harmonious; and any interpretation which does not manifest that harmony must be erroneous. The word "fire" is here used as a symbol of destruction, and the word eternal is from the Greek word aionios, which signifies age-lasting. Thus Sodom and Gomorrah are represented as suffering the vengeance of age-lasting destruction. They were destroyed, says Luke (17:29), and they have remained so ever since, and will so remain until the appointed time for bringing them again from the captivity of death, as declared by the Prophet Ezekiel.
Mark also the statement that these were set forth for an example of God's treatment of the evil doers (See also 2 Pet. 2:6)—an example both of his vengeance and of his mercy. His vengeance was manifested in their destruction; and his mercy is specially manifest in their promised deliverance. God will punish the evil doers, but he will have mercy also. Those who have sinned against a measure of light shall be punished accordingly (Luke 12:48); and those who, during this Gospel age, have been fully enlightened, and who have tasted of the heavenly gift of justification, and been made partakers of the holy spirit, and who have tasted of the good word of God (not its perversion), and the powers (advantages) of the coming age, and have spurned these, and counted the blood of the covenant wherewith they were sanctified a common thing (Heb. 6:4-6; 10:26-31), will be cut off from life in the second death.
However, the Sodomites and others, though great and shameful sinners, and worthy of many and severe stripes, some of which, at least, were received in their past life, as, for instance, in their fearful overthrow and destruction, were not thus fully enlightened, and consequently were not condemned to the second death, from which there will be no resurrection. And, therefore, even the wicked Sodomites will hear the voice of the Son of man and come forth in due time; for "God our Savior will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one [just and merciful] God, and one mediator between [that just and holy] God [who cannot tolerate sin] and [fallen, sinful] men, the man Christ Jesus [the only begotten and well beloved Son of God, whom God gave to redeem us, because he so loved the world even while they were yet sinners, and] who gave himself [in accordance with the Father's plan] a ransom for all [the Sodomites and all other sinners included],—to be testified in due time." (1 Tim. 2:3-6.) And while this testimony was not given to the Sodomites in their day, it is just as sure that they shall have it in the coming age under the Millennial reign of Christ, when they shall come forth to judgment—to a shameful realization of their guilt, and to an opportunity for repentance and reformation.
Our Lord's statement with reference to their future judgment (Matt. 10:14,15) is also worthy of special note. In sending out his disciples to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of heaven (verse 7), he said it would be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for the city or house that would not receive their message—"And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily, I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city." The implication is that it will be tolerable for both classes, but less tolerable for those who wilfully reject the light of divinely revealed truth, and thus prefer the darkness to the light, because their deeds are evil (John 3:19,20), than for those who even sinned egregiously against the dimmer and waning light of nature.
Hear again the Lord's warning to the caviling Jews who had seen his mighty works, but who wilfully refused to admit their testimony of his Messiahship—"Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, it shall be more [R1618 : page 48] tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hades [the grave]; for if the mighty works which have been done in thee had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for thee." (Matt. 11:21-24.)
Tyre and Sidon had suffered a terrible overthrow in the midst of carnage, pestilence and blood, and Sodom had perished under a deluge of fire and brimstone*; but the more guilty (because more enlightened) Judean cities remained. Why? Because the great day of judgment had not yet come, and except in a very few instances—of which those cited are in point, which were summarily judged and punished before the appointed time for the world's judgment, for examples, as stated—the punishment of evil doers tarries until the appointed time, the Millennial age. Thus it is written, "The sins of some men are previously manifested, leading on to judgment, but in some [instances] indeed they follow after." (1 Tim. 5:24. See also Luke 13:1-5.) The Lord points forward to the day of judgment when all the guilty shall receive their just desserts, and when chastened and penitent sinners may return to God.
*The whole region about Sodom abounds with slime or bitumen pits (Gen. 14:10), sulphur and salt; and the fire was probably from lightning. Thus God used the natural elements with which they were surrounded in accomplishing their destruction.
The judgments of that day will be tolerable for all; and the special revelations of divine truth and the helpful discipline and instruction which were not due in the days of Tyre and Sidon and Sodom, but which our Lord says would have led them to repentance, will be given in the coming day of judgment, both to those wicked cities and also to the cities of Judea.
How plainly all these scriptures point to the coming "times of restitution of all things" of which Peter speaks in Acts 3:19-21, saying, "Times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you, whom the heaven must retain until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began."
Then these times of restitution are the times of Christ's second presence; and this work of restitution is the grand object of his predicted thousand years reign on earth; and that must be the day of judgment to which the Lord referred as the time for the "tolerable" discipline and final settlements with Tyre and Sidon and Sodom and Chorazin and Bethsaida and all the rest of mankind—the day spoken of by the Apostle Paul (Acts 17:31), saying, "God hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained [Jesus Christ], whereof he hath given assurance unto all men in that he hath raised him from the dead."
We rejoice in the blessed testimony thus assured to all men that God, who so loved the world, even while they were yet sinners, that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have everlasting life, hath also appointed a day—a period of a thousand years—in which he will grant to them all a righteous judgment, trial, by him—by that same Son, now risen from the dead—who also so loved us that he freely laid down his life for us all, that thus by the merit of his vicarious sacrifice he might remove the legal disability to our restoration. And we rejoice, too, in the mercy and love and helpfulness vouchsafed to our sin-sick race by the character of the Judge who has given such ample proof of his love.
He will be a just Judge, laying "justice to the line and righteousness to the plummet;" "a merciful High Priest touched with the feeling of our infirmities;" a wise and good physician able to apply the healing balm of the tree of life which is for the healing of the nations; and indeed the blessed seed of Abraham in whom "ALL the families of the earth (from Adam to the end) shall be blessed."
We are always pleased to hear from TOWER readers everything pertinent to their spiritual welfare and the progress of the truth. In fact, we are disappointed to get a mere business order, and nothing more, from personal friends. But please always keep your general letter separate from your business order. This will be to your advantage, as well as ours.
N.B.—Those of the interested, who by reason of old age or accidents, or other adversity, are unable to pay, will be supplied FREE, if they will send a Postal Card each December, stating their case and requesting the paper.
Washington Diplomats and others are calling attention to the fact that European armies were increased fully one hundred thousand men during 1893. They assert that the long feared, general European war involving all nations is sure to begin during 1894. They expect that a movement in Norway, looking to a separation of that country from Sweden and its conversion into a Republic, is likely to be the beginning of a war between Norway and Sweden; that this will be followed by an attempt on the part of Russia to acquire certain winter ports for ships of war and commerce on the coast of Norway, said ports being desirable because, being warmed by the Gulf Stream, they are open the year round. This action on the part of Russia, it is asserted, would provoke Germany and England to opposition, and thus speedily the dreaded, greatest conflict of the old world be speedily precipitated.
All this looks probable; but we nevertheless do not expect a general war, the great trouble of Scripture, for some years yet. We feel confident that the winds of war are being held, under our Lord's direction, until the "harvest" message shall have sealed in their foreheads (intellectually) all of God's saints in those lands; be they few or many, we know not.—Rev. 7:3.
Who are ready to take the field as colporteurs amongst the Swedes, Danes and Norwegians? The Swedish edition of M. DAWN, VOL. I., is already out, and the Dano-Norwegian edition is nearly ready. These will be furnished to colporteurs at 12-1/2 cents (one-half their actual cost) per copy by freight or 15 cents by mail in packs of five or its multiples.
Here is an excellent opportunity for Brethren and Sisters of those nationalities to serve the Lord and their countrymen—in this country or in their native lands. The books sell at 35 cents, so that those who can sell only a few can cover their expenses.
All should think soberly concerning their circumstances, and all the consecrated who are unencumbered should do what they can to spread the good tidings. Every foreigner in this country who becomes deeply interested is apt to send the truth to friends abroad as well as at home. Brother Larson, a deeply interested Dane, sent an English copy of M. DAWN to a friend in Denmark, who, not being able to appreciate it himself, forwarded it to Prof. Samson, of the Morgan Park University. The latter became deeply interested, and is the translator of the Dano-Norwegian edition now on the press.
So the Truth is spread. Let each be sure that he is doing what he can do; and let all leave the general results to God. Sow the seed broadcast and liberally, wherever you have reason to surmise that it might take root; for thou knowest not which will prosper, this or that.
On resigning his position as editor of The Review of The Churches, Archdeacon Farrar is quoted as having said—"The whole cause of the Reformation is going by default; and if the alienated laity do not awake in time, and assert their rights as sharers in the common priesthood of all Christians, they will awake, too late, to find themselves nominal members of a church which has become widely popish in all but name."
Commenting on this, Brother Gillis remarks,—"He thus bewails the very state of things the clergy helped to bring about by suppressing the spirit of reform on all matters of faith and doctrine. In such pitiful straits they cannot contend against popish advances, their own clerical authority being involved. His confession implies that the court is called and Protestantism fails to appear. The case goes by default, and the pride of three hundred years falls in the dust, and defendant must pay the fearful cost."—How true!r1619 VOL. XV. FEBRUARY 15, 1894. NO. 4.
r1622 A SERIOUS QUESTION.
r1622 THE WORK FOR A CONVERTED WILL.
r1622 THE BOOK OF GENESIS - III.
I. QUAR., LESSON VIII., FEB. 25, GEN. 22:1-13.
Golden Text—"By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac."—Heb. 11:17.
VERSE 1. "God did tempt Abraham." This statement must be considered together with that of James 1:13,14. "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man. But every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own desires and enticed."
The words rendered "tempt" and "tempted" in both cases signify to try, to prove; and the statements seem contradictory until we consider the full statement of the Apostle James. He is referring to the fact that that which makes any applied test of character a temptation to evil is either the weakness of an undisciplined character, or else an inherent disposition to evil which has an affinity for the evil alternative before him, for neither of which things is God responsible. If the character were established in righteousness, no presentation of known evil could awaken a desire for it. Thus it is with God: he is so confirmed, so established, in righteousness, and he so fully recognizes the nature of evil, that "he cannot be tempted with evil:" no presentation of any evil could possibly induce him to turn from righteousness. In the sense, therefore, of inclining or inducing a man to evil, God never tempts any man, although he does frequently apply the tests of character by causing or permitting the alternatives of good and evil to be placed before the individual, the results of which trial or proving makes manifest the good or evil tendencies of the man's character and their strength or weakness.
In the test applied to Abraham, God proved his servant under a fiery ordeal which manifested a character which he could approve and highly reward, and Abraham was called the friend of God.—James 2:23.
VERSES 2,3. The test which God applied to Abraham was not an arbitrary one: the whole incident was designed to be a type of a subsequent transaction in the interests of the whole world. It was a typical prophecy of God's great gift of his only begotten and well beloved Son.
To this typical feature of the transaction the Apostle refers, saying, "Abraham is the father of us all [who are of the faith of Abraham], like unto him whom he believed, even God, who...calleth those things which be not as though they were [using them as types]." (Rom. 4:17—margin.) In the type, as the Apostle suggests, Abraham represented God; and with this suggestion it is not difficult to see the significance of the whole event. If Abraham represented God, then Isaac his son represented the Son of God, and his offering up by Abraham was a symbol of God's sacrifice of his Son for the sins of the world, as the Apostle also indicates in Heb. 11:17-19, saying that Abraham offered up his only son in whom centered all his promises, and that in a figure he received him from the dead. And, looking still further, it is not difficult to see that Isaac's wife, Rebecca, was also a type of the true Church, the bride of Christ. A full consideration of these types would go beyond our present limits of space as well as lead away from the main feature of this lesson, viz., the faith of Abraham and its worthy example for our imitation.
We observe, first, that Abraham's faith was a childlike faith. He trusted God's love and believed his wisdom superior to his own, and accepted his authority as paramount to every other consideration. The severest possible test of such a faith was the command to slay his son with his own hand and to offer him upon the altar of sacrifice. [R1623 : page 62] This, too, was his only son (for Ishmael was not counted in the full sense a son, but rather a servant): the son in whom centered all the great anticipation of his life, the son [R1624 : page 62] of promise and received in a miraculous way, the son of his old age, and the one through whom all the promises of God were to be fulfilled. Doubtless, too, he was a dutiful son and well instructed in the right ways of the Lord, and a joy and comfort to Abraham and Sarah. But all these considerations of head and heart were set aside, and with unquestioning promptness Abraham prepared to fulfil the Lord's command, to sacrifice his son, Isaac.
VERSES 4-6. When they came in sight of the place of sacrifice, Abraham felt the need of renewed strength from on high that his courage might not fail; so, with Isaac, he withdrew from the servants that they might have a season of communion with God. This drawing near to God in private prayer and communion was the secret of Abraham's steady unwavering faith and obedience. He became personally acquainted with God; and the knowledge of God's works and ways and promises heretofore had been handed down through faithful patriarchs and were believed and trusted in by Abraham. And this knowledge of and acquaintance with God gave the faith and love and courage to obey. Thus it must be with all God's children who would be pleasing and acceptable to him. First let them make sure that it is God who speaks, and then let obedience be prompt and unquestioning. Then he sometimes spoke to his people by an audible voice, or by an angel, but in these last days he speaks to us through his inspired apostles and prophets; and their testimony he declares sufficient for our guidance into the doing of his will. (2 Tim. 3:17.) That upon which our faith should rest is not, therefore, voices from heaven, either real or imaginary, nor the whisperings of a diseased imagination, but the sure Word of prophecy unto which we do well to take heed, as did faithful Abraham to the voice of God as he then spoke.
A faith thus rooted and grounded in a knowledge of God's works and ways and an intimate personal acquaintance with him is one which cannot be tossed about by every wind of doctrine, and which is pleasing and acceptable to God.
I. QUAR., LESSON IX., MARCH 4, GEN. 25:27-34.
Golden Text—"The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment."—Luke 12:23.
The incident of this lesson, which should be considered together with chapters 27 and 28, is one which is generally viewed as casting great reproach upon Jacob, while Esau is regarded with sympathy and pity. Jacob is regarded as an unprincipled sharper and deceiver, and Esau as an innocent dupe, overpowered by unfortunate circumstances and his brother's ambitious cunning. But, since the special favor of God attended the transaction, it is evidently wise to reconsider the matter, lest haply our conclusions may be found to be against God as well as against Jacob. Since God seems to approve Jacob's course, we ought to expect to find some evidence of Jacob's integrity in the matter. And so we do. We find that which God could commend and reward, and which, properly viewed, was entirely right.
The birthright, the chief inheritance in estate and authority, in patriarchal times belonged naturally to the eldest son of a family. And in the case of Isaac, the father of Jacob and Esau, it included not only personal possessions, but also the covenant blessing of God specially promised to Abraham and inherited by Isaac; and, as Isaac had reached advanced age, he began to realize that the covenant blessing was not to be realized in himself personally, but was to be transmitted to his posterity. This was also indicated to Rebekah, Isaac's wife, when she was told that "the elder should serve the younger." Thus Jacob was shown to be the divinely chosen line through whom the covenant blessings should be realized. The words of Isaac in blessing Jacob (chapter 27:28,29) indicate the transmitting of the Abrahamic covenant blessing to him—that in him and in his seed should all the nations of the earth be blessed;—and the blessing was further emphasized when Jacob was about to depart to seek a wife in Padan-aram, when he said, "God Almighty bless thee and make thee fruitful and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people; and give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee and to thy seed with thee, that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham." (Chapter 28:3,4; Heb. 11:20.) And this covenant was confirmed to Jacob by [R1624 : page 63] a special message from God, as our next lesson indicates. See Chapter 28:13-15; 1 Chron. 16:17.
Now for the integrity of Jacob's course. Observe (1) that Esau manifested but very little appreciation of his birthright, in that he was willing to sell it for the small price of a mess of pottage; (2) that he only regarded so much of it as pertained to the present life, and that its chief feature, the Abrahamic covenant, was quite overlooked, showing that he had little or no faith in it and no appreciation of it. (See verse 32.) (3) We remember the line of descent of the covenant favor was hinted to Rebekah in the promise that the elder should serve the younger (Gen. 25:23), which promise was treasured up by Rebekah, and doubtless communicated to Jacob, who was inspired by it to look for some honorable way to acquire it from his brother to whom it pertained by natural descent, he being the first-born. The occasion above referred to was such an opening; and Jacob, who had faith in the promise of God to Abraham and its future fulfilment and also in the Word of the Lord to his mother, seeing his brother's lack of faith and appreciation, embraced the opportunity to lawfully purchase the birthright at the price freely agreed upon by Esau. Thus lawfully he came into the inheritance to which God had called him.
(4) Some years after (25:27,31; 26:34,35; 27:1-10), Isaac, feeling that his course of life was nearing the end, determined to bestow his blessing, the birthright, upon Esau; or, in other words, to make or declare his last will and testament. (27:1-4.) Here Esau should have reminded his father that he had sold his prospective birthright to Jacob; but this he evidently failed to do, as he prepared to disregard the contract entirely. But, providentially, Rebekah overheard the father's expressed intention, and, fearing that his preference for Esau would lead him also to disregard the contract, if he indeed knew of it, she planned the artifice by which Isaac was misled and caused to bestow the blessing upon Jacob.
That Jacob lied to Isaac in claiming to be Esau we do not understand, since in the lawful purchase of the birthright he stood in the place of Esau as the representative of the first-born. Even so the Levites were called the first-born of Israel because they represented the first-born. Esau, in selling his birthright, actually made Jacob his attorney in fact to receive, hold and exercise at any time and forever all of his (Esau's) rights and privileges pertaining to the birthright in every way and manner. So Jacob had a perfect right to appear as Esau, name and all; and Rebekah did no wrong in aiding in the transaction, she too being actuated by faith in the promise of God and by a due appreciation of it. And God showed his valuation of the faith which thus trusted and appreciated his promise.
In this view of the matter we see a reason for God's approval and rewarding of Jacob. Jacob was a man of faith who had respect unto the promises of God, although, like Abraham, he might have to die in faith and to wait in the grave for the realization. This great favor he earnestly sought; and, having obtained the promise, he never bartered it away, nor walked unworthy of an heir of such a hope. He loved and worshiped God, and diligently sought to know and to do his will.
But, if we read this incident as a mere scrap of history, we fail to receive the special benefit which its recital was designed to teach, as indicated by the Apostle Paul, who refers to it as a type of God's purpose as to election, the two sons of Isaac representing the Jewish and Gospel dispensations of peoples—Esau the Jewish and Jacob the Gospel dispensation and house.
The two boys were twins, and so were these two dispensations. (See MILLENNIAL DAWN, VOL. II., chap. vii.) And as it was foretold of these that the elder should serve the younger, so also the Gospel Church, though younger, is to take precedence to the Jewish house or church. The younger or Gospel house is to partake of the root and fatness of the Abrahamic covenant, while the elder is to receive mercy and favor through its mercy.—Rom. 11:31.
So God's purposes according to election stand (Rom. 9:11-16); and it is his will that all who in this acceptable day of the Lord make their calling and election sure shall have the chief blessing as the Church of the first-born (Heb. 12:23), though actually the Jewish house was first developed. The latter will constitute the earthly phase of the Kingdom, while the former will be the [R1624 : page 64] higher spiritual phase in power and authority.
Those who in the Gospel dispensation make their calling and election sure, being counted the worthy seed of Abraham and heirs of the promise of God, will be such as have too high a valuation of it to part with it for a mess of pottage. Yet many who were called to this high office, like Esau and fleshly Israel, fail to appreciate the calling and, lacking faith and perseverance, ignominiously sell their high privilege as the prospective heirs of God and joint-heirs of Jesus Christ. Israel after the flesh, the natural descendants of Abraham and heirs of the promise, fell through unbelief and through failure to appreciate the goodness of God in the gift of his Son and in the blessings offered first to them through him. They preferred, instead, to pursue the course which their own pride and self-will dictated. Thus, as Esau, they profaned their birthright. (Heb. 12:16.) And so also many of the Gentiles, since favored with the call, have likewise fallen from this grace.
Subjoined you will find list of subscribers, so that we may have the remainder of the sheet for personal chat. First allow us to send our most affectionate greeting, and to wish you all the joy of the season. But this, as you well know, is backed by our earnest prayers on your behalf, that you may not only be preserved from all evil but led into all truth. Truly, we need to bear each other up before the throne of grace in prayer, for the powers of evil are even now most malignant and manifest; and well need we take warning and comfort from our Father's message—"if possible, they shall deceive the very elect." Ah! thank him, we know that it is impossible; for he will never leave, never forsake; and "no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand." We are finding it a very trying time. The wheat is being sifted, and so, instead of increasing, our numbers are getting rather less; but this brings out a point that it is more and more needful we should keep to the front, and that is, real conversion and consecration, not to a particular work, but to Christ. This is forced upon us when we see some very eager for the "truth," and who seem most promising for a time; but the novelty wears off, the trials come and they stumble because they have not realized their greatest need; i.e., that they are only sinners at best, until they are wholly given up to and begotten again of Christ. Then, too, Spiritism is spreading so rapidly as to be almost a fashion, and the church nominal is most rapidly rushing to destruction. Here we thank God and you for the help received from TOWER, both on "Higher Criticism" and Parliament of Religions.
But let us always be kept humble by remembering that we are acceptable only in Christ our Lord. I feel there is much danger of thinking that we are acceptable for our works' sake; and oh! I do pray, my dear Brother and Sister, that you, who have such a mighty responsibility upon you, may be kept from all evil.
Brother Rogers will possibly tell you of my visit to and meeting him and the dear ones in London during my Christmas holiday. But I cannot help feeling uncomfortable and somewhat grieved that the meetings in London are likely to be more disputatious than is compatible with loving and gentle helpfulness. There are some such loving and dear souls amongst them; but some seem to manifest more of the contentious than the Christ-like Spirit. Perhaps it is that they are "freshmen." But we must pray the Lord to touch them, to search their hearts before them, to teach them and to keep them from divisions.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:—I have felt very sorry that I could seemingly do so little, but God knows best. Now I am going to make a proposition to you. I own two forty-acre plots in Orange County, Florida. The town of Apopka lies between them, and there is a railroad depot near each. There are no improvements on either. Now, as I cannot do much any other way, if you will accept them for the Tract Fund, I thought you might sell them in five or ten-acre lots, and make more out of them than I could. Your Sister in Christ,
[We have accepted the Sister's kind donation, and now offer the land in plots of five acres each, to anyone desiring a Florida home. Price, $100. Five acres in Florida make a good sized orange grove.—W.T. Tract Society.]