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.
All interested in the Colporteur work will be glad to learn that the change of the price of DAWNS, when sold by Colporteurs, to 35 cents has, as was hoped, made it possible for others to enter this most fruitful field of service for our Redeemer. Several new laborers have started and others are preparing to start soon. (For particulars of price see our last issue.)
As for the old Colporteurs, some who were behind are now getting caught up and will be able to keep ahead; while others who were able to more than meet expenses at the 25 cent rate are now enabled to contribute to the general work. The first letter of this kind received was from Sister Erlenmyer, May 29th. While saying that the wet season had hindered her greatly, she adds, "I have sold only a little over 300 DAWNS since the Anniversary Meeting, having lost so much time by reason of my present route being amongst small towns, and the weather so wet; but I have made expenses, and am able to send in to the general Tract Fund work the extra ten cents now charged, and accordingly enclose a Money Order for $30.00. Use it according to your judgment for the Master's glory. With much love to you and Sister Russell, I am yours in the glorious service!"
Surely there are many other brethren and sisters so situated that they could, with some effort, enter this specially useful and fruitful service. While every service, great or small, done from love for the Redeemer is owned and blessed, this one yields specially large results both to the "reapers" and to those whom they reach with the sickle of truth.
These two neat pamphlets, bound in Leatherette (the former of 64 pages, specially for children, and the latter of 108 pages, specially for developed Christians) are well adapted for use by Colporteurs. Not that we would have any stop selling DAWN to sell these; but there are some who cannot go away from home, and who have already canvassed their home city for DAWN, who could now make a success and do a good work for the great Master in seeking his sheep with this food. The Wonderful Story, even, although a child's booklet, most assuredly is reaching also the older folks, who read it to and with the children. Our price is 10 cents each; Colporteurs' price, 15 cents each—the two booklets, 25 cents. Special price to Colporteurs, seventy-five cents per dozen.
To one weighed down, as I have been from birth, with that spirit of fear, such words come as a cool, refreshing draught from the waters of life. But Oh! that I might come into the full stature of a man in Christ Jesus.
Tract No. 1, "Do the Scriptures Teach that Eternal Torment is the Wages of Sin?" has been translated into Swedish, which is Tract No. 9; and into Norwegian, which is Tract No. 13. We do not send these out except when specially ordered. Any who can use these judiciously are welcome to order them—freely. These, as well as Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10 and 14, are supplied in quantities without charge—out of the Tract Fund.r1417 VOL. XIII. JULY 1, 1892. NO. 13.
SUGGESTIVE THOUGHTS DESIGNED TO ASSIST THOSE OF OUR
READERS WHO ATTEND BIBLE CLASSES, WHERE THESE
LESSONS ARE USED; THAT THEY MAY BE ENABLED TO
LEAD OTHERS INTO THE FULNESS OF THE GOSPEL.
PUBLISHED IN ADVANCE, AT THE REQUEST OF FOREIGN READERS.
III. QUAR., LESSON III., JULY 17, Acts 2:37-47.
VERSES 37-41. As soon as the disciples had received the begetting spirit and the qualifying gifts, they became preachers—all who received the spirit received a gift or ability to preach the truth in some way. They did not tarry to build colleges and seminaries, and to study astronomy, or geology, or even elocution, but straightway preached—using whatever talents they had, God being willing to use all who desired to serve him. They did not even stop to dispute about how they would "organize" and who should be the officers and which should be Reverend and which Most Reverend. They did not say, Let us make a creed which will elaborately state all that must be believed regarding this life and the next. Already, in being united to Christ, they had the only proper organization.
What then did they do? They preached! What did they preach? The words of Peter are briefly stated (verses 14-36) and were doubtless the text for all, as all preached. He simply explained to the people that these gifts of the spirit, which they saw displayed, were meant to designate these as acceptable to God, as the Prophet had foretold (see June TOWER); that their acceptance with God was the result, not of works of their own, but of faith in Christ's work (verse 21); then he explained about Christ, the Messiah, and how they as a people had slain him; how God had foreknown and foretold this, and how he had raised Christ from death, as also foretold by the prophets; and how this Messiah was now highly exalted by God and would yet conquer every foe; and that he had secured for his followers divine favor and adoption into the family of God, of which these gifts of the spirit of adoption were the outward witness. And with many other words and arguments in this same line Peter and the others preached the gospel and said to the people, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation," accept of Christ and through him have God's favor and unite with us in his service—telling the good tidings.
Some believed this plainly-told story, and asked, What must we do to be saved from the fate of our cast-off nation and to obtain the divine favor as you have it? The answer came quickly, Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. They did not say, You are all right now since you BELIEVE: there were certain works proper to show their belief. Their course of conduct as well as their belief was to be changed in conformity to the words of Jesus, whom they now accepted as Messiah, and they were to give outward expression to this change, and to show publicly that they believed in him and had consecrated their lives to his service, by baptism into his name.
They did not ask them which Church they would join, for there is but one true Church—"The Church of the Living God," of which Christ is the Head, and of which every truly consecrated one who believes in him as his Savior is a member. They did not ask them to assent to a fixed creed devised by men, nor to bind or commit themselves in any manner, except as their faith in Christ and their allegiance to him would be expressed by their baptism into his name, in the likeness of his death. How beautifully simple was the organization of the early Church. The names were "written in heaven" (Luke 10:20), but we have no record to indicate that they were enrolled on earth. And all were just as free to leave the Church as to come into its gatherings; and when any "drew back" or proved unworthy, [R1421 : page 205] their names were "blotted out" in the heavenly records only, for no other records are mentioned. (Rev. 3:5.) About three thousand souls were added to the Church by that first day's preaching—but it is not stated that they were all immersed in the one day.
The statement that they were to be baptized for the remission of their sins is generally misunderstood. It should be remembered that those addressed were all Jews—already in covenant relationship with God, but about being cast off because of failure to live as nearly as they could up to the terms of their covenant. There was a difference, therefore, between them and the Gentiles who had always been aliens and strangers, afar off from God—"without God and without hope." And it was proper to tell the Jews to repent—to turn again to God and to their covenant—to be his people and to seek to do his will. To the Jew who had wandered away from God, baptism in the name of Jesus became a fresh witness of a covenant [R1421 : page 206] relationship with God which recognized Jesus as his appointed Messiah. If they would thus accept and acknowledge Christ, their sins against their covenant and their share in the sin of their nation in rejecting and crucifying him would be remitted or forgiven. Compare Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3; Acts 13:24 and particularly Acts 22:16. These instances all relate to Jews, either natural born or proselyted.
VERSE 42. Recognizing the Apostles' teachings as divinely inspired, the early Church had a grand unity of sentiment, and "all believed the same things" (1 Cor. 1:10); they did not each try to rack his brain to make a new theory or a new kind of theology. How blessed it would be for the Church to-day if she were delivered from the confusion (Babel) of tongues—doctrines—which now prevails, and if, instead of studying and endeavoring to harmonize the inconsistent teachings of men, all would unite in discussing the teachings of the Lord and the apostles, with a view of learning just what they (God's mouthpieces) meant to teach. How soon would "the faith once delivered to the saints" illuminate the hearts of all the humble.
The "breaking of bread" does not refer to the Lord's Supper; for in it the wine is no less important than the bread, and would surely have been mentioned had that yearly memorial been meant. Our Lord's resurrection from death on the first day of the week seems to have given rise to the custom in the early Church of meeting together on that day, so precious in its memory of revived hopes. And since after his resurrection our Lord made himself known to them several times in connection with their partaking of food (Mark 16:14; Luke 24:30,31; John 21:5-12), the early Church appears to have gotten into the habit of having a simple meal in common in remembrance of this—a sort of love-feast.
Prayers, of course, were not neglected. No soul appreciative of the great privilege of communion with the great Creator, opened to us by our Mediator through the sin-offering which he gave for our transgressions, would fail to use so precious a boon—to express his thanks for mercies received and to seek fresh supplies of grace and wisdom in the Redeemer's name.
VERSES 44,45. The tendency with all whose hearts are touched and sealed with God's spirit, the spirit of love, is to live together as one family—the new-found cup of blessings, joys of the Lord, being rendered the more sweet and precious by being shared in common; and if the spiritual so also the temporal joys and sorrows would be gladly shared. So it was in the early Church: such a spirit of love prevailed and speedily led to community of goods—"They had all things in common"—"possessions (houses, etc.) and goods"—as one family, the family of God.
This beautiful and desirable condition of affairs doubtless affords a foreview of the blessed state of affairs already existing in heaven and of what will be found also upon earth when that which is perfect is come, and when as a result of the promised "times of restitution" God's will shall be done on earth as it is done in heaven. And God no doubt arranged for this sample of Christian Communism as an illustration of what a full measure of the holy spirit would lead to. But that God did not intend that such a communism should continue throughout this Gospel age seems evident. Having served its intended use as an object lesson, it was permitted to die. Indeed, it should be evident to all that the children of this world would be led into such a community by a spirit of selfishness and indolence as surely as if not more numerously than saints would be drawn into it by the spirit of love. And it is evident that it required the exercise of those special powers conferred upon the apostles, to keep the community from being imposed on by such selfish characters.—Acts 5:1-11; 8:18-24.
When our Lord traveled throughout Palestine with his twelve disciples they had a common "bag" into which freewill offerings were put. Judas, who had a devil, was the treasurer, being naturally drawn to the position by his love of money, selfishness. And yet theirs was not a communism in the full sense; for John at least had "his own home."—John 19:27.
Furthermore, neither our Lord nor the apostles in any of their teachings urged believers to communism of goods; but, on the contrary, they urged each to esteem himself a steward of God's favors, temporal and spiritual, and to use them—"distributing to the necessities of the saints"—laying by on the first day of the week, according as God had prospered each, a fund from which the Lord's cause could be forwarded. And those who have, from time to time since, attempted religious socialism or communism have, as a rule, found the matter impracticable, because, although the spirit may be willing, the flesh is weak.
VERSES 46,47. Whilst it lasted, their full fellowship was delightful, and made even the ordinary affairs of life more blessed—"They ate their food with gladness." Such a blissful condition was well calculated to draw the attention and hearts of all Israelites indeed. And thus did the Lord draw out of the rejected nation into the Church such as it was proper to rescue or "save" from the "blindness" which he had sent upon that nation, because of unfitness of heart to share the blessings of the Gospel age.—Rom. 11:7-11.
III. QUARTER, LESSON IV., JULY 24, ACTS 3:1-16.
Golden Text—"And his name, through faith in his name, hath made this man strong."—Acts 3:16.
VERSE 1. Peter and John were promptly about the Master's business. The Pentecostal blessing had filled their hearts, and in their zeal to find some opportunity for service they went up to the temple at the hour of prayer, hoping and expecting to find there some opportunity for testifying to the truth.
VERSES 2,3. At the gate of the temple they met a poor beggar, lame from his birth, who asked for alms; and immediately the Spirit of God suggested to Peter the healing of this man in the name of the Lord Jesus as a means of calling the attention of the people to the fact of his resurrection and power. The suggestion was accompanied by the gift of faith (1 Cor. 12:9), and the inspired Apostle, strong in the assurance that the Lord would work with him in this matter, boldly commanded the man in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth to rise up and walk.
VERSES 4-7 show that a remarkable cure was effected as soon as the man made the effort to obey the command of the Lord Jesus through Peter. Herein is a lesson for us to manifest the disposition to obedience to the Lord if we would secure his blessing.
VERSE 8 declares the completeness of the cure and the surprise and joy and gratitude of the man, as, walking and leaping and praising God, he entered the temple with Peter and John, a living witness to the power of the risen Lord Jesus whom they preached.
VERSES 12-16 are a part of the testimony concerning the Lord Jesus. How bold and fearless Peter here appears since that pentecostal baptism of the holy spirit. There is no disposition now to deny the Lord: he fearlessly stands before the people who only a few months previous had crucified the Lord, and charges them with the crime; describing, too, the enormity of their guilt, and then declaring the fact of his resurrection, of which fact he claimed to be one of the witnesses. And this miracle which had been wrought in their sight, in the name of Jesus, he pointed to as an evidence of his exaltation and power.
Here, strange to say, just at the most interesting point of his discourse, our lesson closes, and the succeeding lesson is chosen from the next chapter, thus omitting the glorious doctrine which Peter that day set forth to the eager listeners, and which the miracle was only intended to introduce to their attention and to prove to them that the doctrine was of God. But let us proceed.
VERSES 17-19 were intended to encourage any who began to realize their national sin and [R1422 : page 207] their individual part in it, by showing that their sin might be forgiven, because they, as well as their rulers, had done it in at least partial ignorance. Thus he urges them to repentance in view of the fact that times of refreshing are coming from the presence of the Lord.
VERSES 20-24 declare that the Lord Jesus is coming again, and that the times of refreshing or restitution are due at his return. Then the apostle calls attention to the fact that this promised restitution was the theme of all the prophets, and bids them specially note what Moses had to say about Christ as a great prophet and teacher with authority and power, all of which will be fully realized at his return.
Glorious tidings were these for those who heard in faith. They had before them that very day an illustration of the restitution blessings. These things did Jesus through his faithful witnesses and thus shadowed forth the glory and blessings of his future kingdom. Then the Apostle reminded them of the promise made to their father Abraham—"In thee and thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed:" i.e., that through the children of Abraham, exalted to power and great glory, these blessings of restitution were to flow to the whole world; and that they, as the children of Abraham and of the prophets who foretold these things, were the natural heirs of this promise—of the grand privilege of being exalted to such a position of favor with God and of power and influence as to be able to bless all the families of the earth.
Then he declares that it was for this very reason—because they were the natural seed of Abraham—that God was so gracious toward them as to offer to them first this special favor, over and above the great favor of restitution which he had promised for the whole world (verses 25,26); for, in order to bless others, they must of necessity be the more highly exalted. (Heb. 7:7.) Not indeed because of their personal worthiness was this offered to them. Ah, no: they had most signally manifested their unworthiness in killing the Prince of life. Nevertheless, they were told that God would forgive this terrible sin if they would repent and turn to their crucified and now highly exalted Lord and receive his great salvation. But if they would not repent they had no inheritance in the Abrahamic promise or covenant; they would not be owned as children [R1422 : page 208] of Abraham, but would be disinherited; "for God," said Jesus, "is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham."
The sermon that Peter preached that day, accompanied, as it was, by an actual demonstration of the Lord's power to accomplish the great restitution work, must have made a deep impression upon the minds of his hearers. And as we read it to-day, in the early dawn of the blessed times of restitution, our hearts are made to rejoice also in the glorious prospect; especially since we have come to realize that the special favor which the natural seed of Abraham, except a small remnant, failed to appreciate and accept, we, Gentile believers, being by faith counted as the seed of Abraham, have fallen heirs to. Blessed inheritance! How little poor, prejudice-blinded Israel realized what they were rejecting; and how careful should we be who have been adopted in their stead into the family of God, lest we become blinded by the god of this world to the great value of this favor, and so fall after the same example of unbelief. Let us remember the Apostle Paul's admonition—"Thou standest by faith. Be not high-minded, but fear."
Referring again to the subject of the lesson—the healing of the lame man—let it be observed that this was not a prayer-cure, since there was no prayer offered, nor was the subject anointed according to the directions of the Apostle James; nor was it a faith-cure, since the subject evidently had no faith or expectancy of such a thing; nor was it a mind-cure; nor was it a partial cure gradually effected in the course of days or weeks. It was instantaneous, miraculous and complete, and in all of these respects different from the healings witnessed to-day, some of which we regard as a beginning of the restitution work, or rather, as an introduction to that work, and designed principally to call attention to the possibilities of the restitution times. It was one of the results of the special gifts granted to the early Church for the purpose of confirming their testimony and establishing the truth in candid and pious minds.
To witness for the truth in those days required special power: a mere statement of the fact that the despised and hated Nazarene, against whom the nation had conspired, and whom they had very recently put to a cruel and ignominious death, would not suffice to convince the people that this was indeed Jehovah's Anointed, the long promised Messiah. Consequently, it was necessary for these chosen witnesses to these wonderful truths to have some supernatural powers granted to them to enforce their testimony, else they would be regarded merely as deluded fanatics; and, therefore, in addition to the blessings of the day of Pentecost, special gifts were conferred upon all the various members of the early Church, whereby the Lord endorsed their testimony.
There were, as Paul enumerated them (1 Cor. 12:8-10) gifts of wisdom, of knowledge, of faith, of healing, of miracles, of prophecy, of discerning of spirits, of speaking with unknown tongues. These gifts were necessary in those days, both for convincing the honest-hearted Israelites and for the edification of the infant Church, which was not then possessed of the bountiful supply of spiritual food now granted to us in the completed canon of both Old and New Testaments, with ability and helps to read them.
In the instance of our lesson two special gifts were exercised by the Apostle Peter, viz.: the gift of faith, and the gift of healing. Ordinarily, faith is not a gift, except in the remote sense of the God-given basis whereon a reasonable and sure hope may rest. But, in the case under consideration, Peter was made to know assuredly that the man before him was to be healed for the glory of God. This God-given persuasion seemed to come to him instantly, as soon as the lame man asked for alms. Observe that the man did not pray, either to God or to Peter and John, for healing. He evidently never thought of such a thing, much less expected it. Neither did the apostles pray for the man or ask the man to pray for himself; but, in the full assurance of the gift of special faith for this occasion, he exercised his gift of healing, commanding the man who had never walked before and who never expected to walk, and who needed the assuring hand of Peter to encourage him to make the effort, in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth to rise up and walk.
The cure which immediately followed was evidently a complete soundness of the lame ankle. The man, filled with wonder and surprise, could at first hardly believe it himself. He tried standing, then began to step; and then, realizing his new strength and soundness, he leaped for joy, and, praising the Lord, entered with the apostles into the temple to hear what more these men would have to say about this one in whose name the miracle had been performed.
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.
During the Colporteurs' Meetings which followed the regular meetings of the recent Convention, some of the older and more experienced Colporteurs made the suggestion that hereafter all colporteurs be authorized to sell the MILLENNIAL DAWN series of books at Thirty-five cents per volume, or three volumes for One Dollar—explaining to any who might notice and inquire, that the books could be had at Twenty-five cents each if they chose to send to the Allegheny office; but that the Colporteurs are allowed to charge ten cents extra to cover their additional expense connected with delivering the books. With the consent of the office several had tried the higher price plan and the results had been highly satisfactory: they had sold about as many as at Twenty-five cents; that people concede that a book of 350 pages on good paper is cheap at 35 cents—or over 1100 pages for $1.00. As a consequence we have decided on this change.
The object of the suggestion on the part of those proposing the higher price was not money-getting, but a desire to forward the work. While they are able to meet their traveling and living expenses and a little more at twenty-five cents, they well know that many others cannot do so on account of being less successful salesmen, or of having encumbrances in the way of family duties and expenses. Indeed, the plan proposed is that all who can do so shall return to the Lord's treasury all that can be spared from their actual expenses, that it may assist in the general work of spreading the Truth, to which all of our lives are consecrated.
It is not the thought to attract worldly people into the work. We desire only such as engage in the work as ministers of the gospel, and from the conviction that what they are presenting is the Truth, and that in no other manner can they so fully and faithfully serve the Lord and his people. We do not know of one now in the colporteur work merely as a business: all are doing what they can as unto the Lord; and several who could earn nearly or quite a thousand dollars a year in other occupations, gladly give their all for the Truth.
Single copies delivered by colporteurs, 35 cents.
Three " " " " $1.00.
Single copies by mail from the office, 25 "
Five (or multiples of five, 10, 20, 40,
etc.) copies of any one volume by mail,
post-paid to one address, each, . . . 15 "
Fifty or more copies by express or one
hundred or more by freight at colporteur's
charges,. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12-1/2 "
PRICES IN LEATHERETTE BINDING.
Single copies delivered by colporteurs, 50 cents.
Three " " " " $1.25
Single copies from TOWER office, 35 "
Five " (or multiples) of any
one volume, each, . . . . . . . . . . 20 "
PRICES IN CLOTH BINDING.
Single copies, retail price, post-paid $1.00.
To TOWER subscribers at wholesale
rate, post-paid, . . . . . . . . . . . 50 "
To Colporteurs by express, etc., 35 "
The DAWNS in the German language are now under the full control of Brother Zech, and all orders for them should be addressed to—Otto von Zech, Euclid Ave., Allegheny, Pa. Vol. I. same prices as the English. Vol. II. costs more, because of small edition. Retail price, 35 cents; to Colporteurs, 20 cents.
As a result of this arrangement we hope soon to hear of many ready and glad to give all their time to the work. The Master, the Chief Reaper, saith, "He that reapeth receiveth wages and gathereth fruit unto everlasting life."
None but WATCH TOWER subscribers can be recognized as Colporteurs, for two reasons: (1) The DAWNS are special issues of the ZION'S WATCH TOWER, and if mailed to others than subscribers the postage would cost us extra, and (2) those really interested in the DAWNS will surely want the TOWER (the terms of which are liberal enough to suit all), and we seek only such interested ones for Colporteurs or ministers of this gracious gospel.r1422 VOL. XIII. JULY 15, 1892. NO. 14.
SUGGESTIVE THOUGHTS DESIGNED TO ASSIST THOSE OF OUR
READERS WHO ATTEND BIBLE CLASSES, WHERE THESE
LESSONS ARE USED; THAT THEY MAY BE ENABLED TO
LEAD OTHERS INTO THE FULNESS OF THE GOSPEL.
PUBLISHED IN ADVANCE, AT THE REQUEST OF FOREIGN READERS.
LESSON V., JULY 31, ACTS 4:1-18.
Golden Text—"There is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved."—Acts 4:12.
This lesson continues the narrative of the preceding one, and shows how the glorious doctrine, of redemption and restitution through the death and resurrection of Christ, was received by those who heard. We learn that so many of the people believed that the number of disciples who openly espoused the cause of Christ was greatly increased. (Verse 4.) This manifestation of power, to influence the people to believe in the crucified Jesus and in the doctrine he taught, greatly incensed the priests, who resolutely refused the truths of the new dispensation, and were determined, so far as lay in their power, to hinder the people from believing them, and thus to retain their own former prestige and honors and influence.
The Sadducees also, a large sect of the Jews who denied, not only the doctrine of the resurrection and a future life, but also the existence of spirit beings, were greatly annoyed by this teaching, and joined with the priests and the captain of the temple in an effort to put an end to it. Then Peter and John were seized and put into prison, and afterward brought before the rulers and elders and scribes to answer for this heresy.
Evidently they appreciated the privilege of thus enduring reproach for the cause of Christ. With great boldness Peter again affirmed before the rulers that this miracle had been performed in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom they had crucified. They were so filled with the spirit of the glorious message they bore, that prisons and persecution and even the possibility of sharing their Master's fate did not deter them from speaking boldly in his name, and of the blessed tidings of his coming kingdom and glory. "Be it known unto you all," said Peter, "and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him, doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at naught of you builders, which is become the head of the corner [the chief corner stone in the divine plan of the ages]. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
How differently the truth affects men according to the attitude of their hearts with reference to it. Here was the man who had been healed of his lameness gratefully acknowledging the favor of God by accompanying God's accused servants to prison and to judgment, bearing his witness to the truth thus by his personal presence with them, and willingly enduring with them whatever of reproach or persecution this testimony might bring. And how eloquent and convincing was the silent testimony of his presence; for these priests and rulers, the enemies of Christ and his doctrine, "beholding the man which was healed standing with them, could say nothing against it." Then there were numerous others who openly identified themselves with the Church, ready and willing to bear whatever of reproach or persecution it might bring to them. On the contrary, there were those priests and rulers, the professed leaders and teachers of the people, forced to admit in their own hearts the truth of this miracle, yet, blinded by prejudice as to the teaching, secretly plotting and scheming as to how they might be able to hedge up its course and stamp it out, and secretly conferring among themselves, saying, "What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle had been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it." And they finally decided that it would not be advisable to rashly antagonize the numerous followers of the apostles who had been so impressed by their teaching. And therefore they let them go after strictly charging them to speak no more in this name.
To the one class the truth brought peace and joy and the blessed hope of everlasting life; while to the other class—the prejudice-blinded rejectors of God's truth, though professedly his chosen leaders and teachers of the people in the truth—it brought only condemnation, and deepened and intensified their darkness. "Ye serpents, ye generations of vipers," said the Master, "how can ye escape the condemnation to gehenna" [symbol of the second death]?—Matt. 23:33.
Those who cultivate a spirit of opposition to righteousness and who plot and scheme to withstand [R1424 : page 216] God are trifling with a dangerous propensity to evil which will sweep them on to destruction with almost irresistible force, rendering it next to impossible for them ever to turn to righteousness and truth. How great is the responsibility, then, of those who hear and understand the truth, both toward themselves and toward their fellow men. We cannot trifle with God's truth with impunity: when it is testified to us it is our part to receive it into good and honest hearts, to act upon it and to let it have its proper effect upon our lives; and then, with grateful hearts toward God the giver, to bear its precious testimony to others in whatever way we can. If, like the man that was healed of his lameness, we have no talent of eloquence, we can at least company with those who love and serve the truth and let others see what the Lord has done for us, and in simple language we can tell how we who were once lame with ignorance and superstition and doubt and fear have been healed of our lameness and can now run and not grow weary, and walk and not faint; and how that through faith in the crucified and risen Lord Jesus the great work has been accomplished.
Let all who have heard the blessed gospel of redemption and a restitution of all things, and of the precious promises to the Church of being made co-workers with the Lord in bringing to all mankind the blessings of restitution, and of being made joint-heirs together with him in his kingdom, be faithful to the truth—faithful in esteeming it of highest importance, faithful in complying with its conditions of life, faithful in declaring it to others, faithful in standing up with and for those who publicly proclaim it, and faithful in holding it firm to the end.
The Golden Text of this lesson deserves more than a passing notice; for too many seem to lose sight of its import. As it was "through faith in his name"—the only name given, [R1425 : page 216] whereby we can be saved—that the impotent man was healed, so it is and is to be with all men and with all diseases of body and of soul. Only through the channel of faith in Christ flows the blessing of God. Not through faith without Christ, and not through Christ without faith, but through faith in him whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation [satisfaction] for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.—1 John 2:2.
As men's hearts expand and as they come to realize that but a very small proportion of humanity, now living or dead, ever heard of the ONLY NAME WHEREIN IS SALVATION, they rebel against this text and either twist it or deny it, because they hold as truth the human teaching that the present life ends all probation and all hope. On the contrary, how much better it would be for them to say with the Apostle: Let God be true though it prove all humanity to be in error; and, affirming with Peter and all the apostles that there is no salvation without faith and no other name in which faith will avail, they should seek for the Scriptural solution of their difficulty. They would find it in the words of all the holy prophets and apostles, as well as in our Lord's words: that as the man Christ Jesus gave himself a ransom for all, this glorious gospel must be testified to all in due time (1 Tim. 2:6), and that this "due time" is coming in which the knowledge of the Lord will fill the whole earth. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. (Isa. 11:9; 35:5.) Then all that are in their graves shall obey the voice of the Son of Man and come forth—and they who then obey him shall live in a sense and to a degree that they never lived before—an everlasting life.—John 5:25,28.
LESSON VI., AUGUST 7, ACTS 4:19-31.
Golden Text—"They spake the word of God with boldness."—Acts 4:31.
VERSES 19,20. Here Peter and John called upon the rulers and elders and scribes in council to judge for themselves whether it would be right in the sight of God to obey earthly rulers rather than God, and boldly declared their own convictions and purpose to continue to declare the things which they had seen and heard, notwithstanding their command to the contrary; for, said they, we cannot do otherwise: we are so full of the spirit of this glorious truth that we must give utterance to it. The basis of their confidence was not superstition, but a knowledge of the truth—of the sacrificial death of the Lord and the clearly demonstrated fact of his resurrection, which was to them a pledge of the promised resurrection of all the redeemed race of men. "Ye shall know the truth," said our Lord, "and the truth shall make you free"—free from ignorance and superstition, and bold to declare the whole counsel of God.
These opposers of the truth, be it noted, were not professed infidels, nor worldly people: they were the greatest religious teachers of their day; and one was the great high priest. According to God's own arrangement for the Jewish nation during the Jewish age, these were the appointed guides of the people; but now a new dispensation was dawning, and these professed teachers, who had been unfaithful to their trust, and who had grown proud and self-righteous and out of all harmony with the spirit of [R1425 : page 217] God, were entirely unprepared for it, so that when the glorious gospel of the new dispensation reached their ears they could not receive it. Their learning and their leisure to devote to the study of the divine Word were of no avail to them in finding the truth, for their hearts were not in the proper attitude of humility before God. Consequently the lowly and untitled—the humble fishermen, yea, and the publicans and reformed harlots—went into the kingdom before them.
And so it has been ever since those days: the most determined opposition to the truth has always come from the recognized religious leaders in whom pride and ambition were fostered and cultivated. And these were nearly always followed by the multitude, while the few who dared to be true to God and his Word have always endured persecution from them in some form. This is none the less true of our day than of the past. It is the clergy to-day that offers the most strenuous opposition to the truth; and it is only here and there that a few faithful souls are found brave enough to believe and teach the truth as the Lord is now unfolding it to us in the dawning light of the Millennial day.
It is indeed the right and proper course to believe God rather than men, to declare his truth with humble boldness, and to be ready always to give an answer to every man for the hope that is in us, with meekness and reverence. This we can do if we keep filled with the spirit—filled with the truth, and with love of the truth, and with the joy and peace and comfort that the truth alone can give, and with the zeal for God and for the blessing of our fellow men which the truth alone inspires.
VERSES 21,22. So strong was the evidence of the truth that the masses of the people disregarded the opposition of the clergy; and the latter, unable to deny the testimony, were obliged to let the apostles go.
VERSE 23 shows the beautiful bond of sympathy that existed among the various members of the early Church. They shared each others joys and sorrows and comforted and encouraged one another to be firm and true to God in the midst of the severest trials.
VERSES 24-30 record their prayer of thankful acknowledgment of the favor of God in the deliverance of these two faithful witnesses, thus showing that they did not attribute their success in convincing the people to their own eloquence or power, but to the favor and blessing of God. As the beloved Apostle Paul wrote (1 Cor. 3:5,6), "Who is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed. I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase." All praise is due to God; but we may truly rejoice in being honored as servants of his truth.
The reference in verses 25,26 to David's prophecy (Psa. 2) had a proper application, not only upon that occasion when Peter and John were brought before the rulers, but also upon many subsequent occasions all through this gospel age. The prophecy, however, has special application to the time indicated in verse 6, when Jehovah is about to set his king upon his holy hill of Zion—when he is about to establish his kingdom and set up his Anointed as king over all the earth—when, as other scriptures show, there will be "a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation." We are even now upon the eve of this great time of trouble, which will ere long culminate in the complete and final overthrow of all the kingdoms of the world and the full and permanent establishment of Christ's kingdom.
While the kings and rulers, civil and religious, set themselves in determined opposition and take counsel together against the principles of truth and righteousness that are now being brought to the front and urged upon the attention of all mankind in the heated disputes between capital and labor, between rulers and subjects and between the clergy and the laity of all Christendom, they little realize that they are arraying themselves against the mighty power of the Lord of hosts, who will surely lay justice to the line and righteousness to the plummet, and effectually sweep away every refuge of lies.—Isa. 28:17.
VERSES 29,30 are a petition for special grace and courage, in view of the threatenings of persecution, that they might not grow faint-hearted, but, being filled with the spirit, might speak the truth with great boldness, regardless of the consequences to themselves; and for such miraculous endorsement of their teachings as he would be pleased in his wisdom to grant.
What a sweet, Christlike spirit was manifested in this prayer. Mark the love and harmony and sympathy among the brethren; the love and zeal for the truth which was evidently paramount to every other consideration, their gratitude and humble recognition of the divine favor, and the realization of their own weakness and desire for more and more of the power from on high and for special aid to enable them to endure hardness as good soldiers of the cross. Such is the proper attitude of the Church at all times; and such a spirit and such a prayer are sure to bring to the Church now as well as then the same answer of peace and joy. It is written that they were all filled with the holy spirit, and they went forth from that place of prayer and spoke the Word of God with [R1425 : page 218] boldness. The place also where they were was shaken while the blessing of the spirit came upon them. This, like the gifts that were then given, was evidently to supply what was then needed—an aid to their faith—in an hour of trial just at the beginning of their great work.
LESSON VII., AUGUST 14, ACTS 5:1-11.
Golden Text—"Be not deceived: God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."—Gal. 6:7.
The lesson of this sad narrative is one of special warning to the whole Church. It is the only case in the Church on record where the penalty of wilful violation of a covenant with God met with summary punishment. Many since that day have doubtless similarly violated their covenant and no such results followed. With great boldness many have not only done so, but they have gone still farther and made merchandise of the interests of the truth; and still judgment tarries. Nevertheless, the Lord's eye is upon every one of the consecrated household, and no inequality will be seen in his dealings when his work is completed.
We have seen from the preceding lessons that the Lord's dealings with the early Church were peculiarly adapted to the needs of the inception of so great a cause, and different from his dealings after the Church had been fairly set upon her course for the prize of her high calling. The particular lesson which the Lord in this case desired to impress upon the whole Church from then till now was the solemn obligation involved in our covenant with him of entire consecration to his service.
While this property remained in thy hand was it not thine own? said Peter; and after it was sold was it not in thine own power? Why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. The complicity of the husband and wife in the deception made very manifest the wilfulness and deliberate intention of both; and the penalty which followed was a warning of God's righteous indignation against all hypocrisy and deceit and the holding of the truth in unrightness.—Rom. 1:18.
We are not called upon to decide in this case whether the death of these two was the final or "second death" or not. If they sinned wilfully against sufficient light and ability to walk in it, the penalty must have been final; for it is impossible to renew in righteousness and holiness those who have once enjoyed and then abused the full measure of divine favor. (Heb. 6:4-6; 10:26.) And indeed these words seem to imply that such a deplorable condition may be reached before the fullest measure of light has been received; but such a one must at least have tasted a considerable measure of the heavenly gift and of the powers or advantages of the coming age.
We are told that in the Millennium the sinner a hundred years old shall be cut off (Isa. 65:20) without receiving all the benefits of the Millennial reign. Those who are obedient and who patiently submit themselves to the reformatory measures of Christ's government will go on and on until at the end of that age they will have reached perfection, when all will receive the final testing which will prove their worthiness or unworthiness of eternal life. But the sinner who dies at a hundred years of age will certainly not have enjoyed all of those advantages, simply because he refused to avail himself of them; and his cutting off from life will be because he has so hardened his heart by persistent opposition to the law and discipline of the Lord that it has become impossible to renew him in righteousness and truth.
If such conditions may obtain in the Millennial age, when the world is on trial for life, it is equally possible to the Church in this our day of trial or judgment. We do not count ourselves competent to decide on the case of Ananias and Sapphira or any other individual; we know not what extenuating circumstances God's merciful eye may see in their cases; but we would counsel all to take heed that they hold not the truth in unrighteousness. If we have consecrated all to the Lord let us ever bear in mind the solemn obligation of our covenant. This is the lesson which God designed to impress upon us all, and let us lay it well to heart. But while we would carefully heed the lesson, let us not fear that God will not patiently and tenderly bear with our weaknesses while our hearts are right toward him and while we strive to overcome them. God is just, loving and merciful—slow to anger and plenteous in mercy.
LESSON VIII., AUGUST 21, Acts 5:25-41.
Golden Text—"We ought to obey God rather than men."—Acts 5:29.
This lesson is a continuation of the narrative of the Apostles' faithfulness, even under great persecution, and of the desperately evil course of the religious persecutors of that day. But the circumstances are so similar to those of Lesson VI. that further comment is unnecessary.r1426 "OUT OF DARKNESS INTO HIS MARVELOUS LIGHT."