The Scriptural right for women to labor in the gospel as exhorters, teachers, preachers, etc., is questioned by many. To deny women such a privilege is contrary to the Christian spirit of equality, and a serious obstruction to pure gospel light. We (male and female) are all one in Christ Jesus. Gal.3:28. In the kingdom of grace man and woman are on an equal footing so far as concerns the work of God. To explain some texts that seem to prohibit women from laboring in the gospel and to prove positively to you that women did so labor in the morning light of the church, we will transcribe an article written by Bro. Geo. Cole, and which appeared in the Gospel Trumpet.
|I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea.| The church at Cenchrea was a local congregation or assembly. Phebe our sister -- that this personage was a woman, no one disputes, and she was a servant of the church. Servant-diakonos, translated servant in the following texts: Mat.23:11; Mark 9:35; John 12:26; Rom.16:1. Translated deacon in Phil.1:1; 1 Tim.3:8, 12. Translated minister: Mat.20:26, 28; Mark 10:43, 45; Rom.15:8; 1 Cor.3:5; 2 Cor.3:6; 6:4; 11:15, 23; Eph.3:7; 6:21; Col.1:7, 23, 25; 4:7; 1 Thes.3:2; 1 Tim.4:6; Rom.12:7; 2 Cor.8:4; Mat.25:44; 2 Cor.3:3; Heb.6:10; 1:14; 1 Pet.1:12; 4:10, 11.
The extensive use of this word diakonos in the New Testament readily determines its meaning. That Paul conferred upon Phebe the church title |diakonos| is unquestionable, and as such it means minister or deacon. Liddell and Scott's lexicon comments on diakonos as used in the New Testament as follows: A servant, waiting man or woman, minister, a messenger, a minister of the church. Any one can see the above definition covers all the ground of elder. I will offer a few proof texts. |He that is greatest among you, shall be your servant [diakonos].| Mat.23:11. |Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister [diakonos].| Mat.20:26. |Ministers [diakonos] by whom ye believed.| 1 Cor.3:5. |Who also hath made us able ministers [diakonos] of the New Testament.| 2 Cor.3:6. |Thou shalt be a good minister [diakonos] of Jesus Christ.| 1 Tim.4:6. |In all things approving ourselves as the ministers [diakonos] of God.| 2 Cor.6:4. |Whereof I was made a minister [diakonos].| Eph.3:7.
Thus we might swell the testimony that diakonos was the common term used in the New Testament signifying the ministerial office of minister, elder, preacher, etc. Therefore the evidences are in Phebe's favor that she was a minister or elder rather than a deaconess. If we consider Paul's commendation of her standing and the sending of his Roman epistle by her, as having some weight, this certainly favors the above conclusion.
Propheteuo -- to prophesy publicly, to expound, to preach, etc. There were certain prophets and teachers in the church at Antioch, as Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, Manaen, and Saul or Paul. Acts 13:1. They were public expounders of the Scriptures. Prophesy -- to speak, to edify, exhort, and comfort.1 Cor.14:3. A few examples: Zacharias filled with the Holy Ghost prophesied. Luke 1:67-79. Compare this prophecy with Mary's words in Luke 1:46-55. |They spake with tongues and prophesied.| Acts 19:6. |And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them.| Acts 15:32. |Mystery of Christ which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.| Eph.3:4, 5. Prophets were set in the church. |He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets.| Eph.4:11. |And God set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets.| 1 Cor.12:28. And there were certain prophets and teachers in the church which was at Antioch. Acts 13:1.
Thus we see the prophets were identical with or a constituent part of the New Testament ministry; and it only remains for us to prove there were women prophets in the church and we have women identified with the ministry. Example: Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven. |And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.| Acts 21:8, 9. |But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoreth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.| 1 Cor.11: 5. If there were no women prophets it were foolish to give directions for them while praying or prophesying.
Joel prophesied, |And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.| Acts 2:17, 18. We observe first, men and women were placed on equality as prophets: second, this was to be a characteristic feature or mark of the last days, or last dispensation; third, this was being fulfilled at that time, at Pentecost, as women were present. Acts 1:14. All were filled with the Holy Ghost, and spoke with tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:1-4.
Paul speaks of the whole church coming together into one place.1 Cor.14:23. This includes both men and women. He says, |But if all [men and women] prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all,| ver.24. In verse 31 he says, |For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.| This was an extended privilege to all, though not expected of all, as we see in 1 Cor.12:29: |Are all prophets?| Paul expressly mentions those women which labored with him in the gospel. Phil.4:3. See Rom.16:1, 3, 7, 12. |Labored in the gospel.| |Elders ... labor in the word and doctrine.| 1 Tim.5:17. This was exactly the kind of work that Paul was doing, and those women labored with him in the gospel. |In the gospel| signifies here, evangelizing, spreading or preaching the gospel, etc. Let us not confound ordinary testimony with prophesying. A person must have the gift of prophecy in order to prophesy: and it is this gift that constitutes a person a prophet. Proof texts, Rom.12:6; 1 Cor.12:10, 28; 14:1, 3, 6, 12, 29, 39; Eph.4:8-11. And we have before proved that women did possess this gift, hence were prophetesses or public expounders of the gospel, and hence they have a constituent part in the ministry, and as such are just as much elders in the church of God as men.
Silence In The Church.
|Let your women keep silence in the churches.| 1 Cor.14:39. |Let him keep silence in the church.| Ver.28. If these scriptures had no contexts to explain them we would all be silenced in the church. The context to the last quotation reads thus. |But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence.| This makes it clear. Context to the first reads, |For it is not permitted unto them to speak: but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home.| What kind of speech is forbidden? Ans. -- Asking questions in the church to learn, interrogative speech in the public congregation. The law did not prohibit women being prophets or prophesying. See Deborah, in Judges 4:4-14. Miriam, Ex.15:20. Anna, Luke 2:36. If the law did not prohibit women prophesying, Paul did not call in question the obedience of the law to prove that point. Thus the context explains itself without further comment. Does not the character of Jezebel |which calleth herself a prophetess| disapprove of women prophets? Rev.2:20. No! no more than Satan's ministers transforming themselves into the ministers of Christ would disapprove of the entire Christian ministry. The counterfeit proves there is a genuine. This is conclusive proof in itself that there were true prophetesses in the church in those days.
|Teach nor to usurp authority over the man| (1 Tim.2:12), is offered in argument against women prophets. Such argument betrays ignorance in the nature and spirit of prophecy. A woman filled with the Holy Spirit, prophesying, speaking unto men to edification, exhorting, and comforting, is not usurping authority over any one.
The Resurrection Of The Body.
This chapter appears in Gospel Trumpet, written by H. F. Jackson.
1. Abraham. |Accounting that God was able to raise Him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.| Heb.11:19.
2. Moses. |Now that the dead are raised, even Moses showed at the bush, when he called the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him.| Luke 20:37.
3. Job. |For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.| Job 19:25-27.
4. Isaiah. |Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.| Isa.26:19.
5. Daniel. |And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever. But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days.| Dan.12:2, 3, 13.
6. Hosea. |I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.| Hos.13:14.
The Doctrine Derided Among The Greeks.
|Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoics, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection. And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.| Acts 17:18, 32.
Paul's Defense Of The Doctrine.
|Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?| 1 Cor.15:12. |But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: and if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all?... and why stand ye in jeopardy every hour?| 1 Cor.15:13-18, 29, 30.
Death To Reign Until The Resurrection.
|The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.| 1 Cor.15:26.
The Resurrection Of Christ Ensures That Of His Followers.
|If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the first-fruits: afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.| 1 Cor.15:19-23.
Christ's Promise To Raise His Followers.
|And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.| John 6:39, 40.
The Order Of The Resurrection.
1. The dead will first be raised. |But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, and with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.| 1 Thes.4:13-16.
2. Living saints will be caught up. |Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.| 1 Thes.4:17, 18.
The Glory Of The Consummation.
|Behold, I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we all shall be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.... Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.| 1 Cor.15:51-56.
The Mosaic Law.
There is recorded in the Old Testament the account of God giving a law to govern his people Israel. This is called a covenant, and was to serve as a schoolmaster to lead its subjects to Christ. This law was a shadow of good things to come; that is, it contained types and shadows of something real in the blessed day of gospel grace. The blood of the animals that was shed could not take away sins, but is typical of the blood of Jesus, who in the end of the world appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. There is no power in the blood of animals to redeem man from sin, but we are redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. The unblemished lamb offered in sacrifice under the Jewish economy was typical or a shadow of the spotless Christ, slain for the sins of the world. The types and shadows of the law all center in Christ. When he the substance is come the shadow of necessity vanishes away. When the shadow meets the substance the shadow has an end. The redemption which we have in Jesus not only redeems us from sin, but also from the bondage of the Sinaitic law. |But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.| Gal.4:4, 5. |Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.| Gal.3:13.
There is no salvation to be obtained by the observance of any part or the whole of the law of Moses including the ten commandments. Salvation or redemption is only found in Christ and the gospel. |Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.| Heb.9:12. |For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.| Rom.8:3. It is not through the law we obtain salvation, but through the gospel. |For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.| Rom.1:16. |Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.| Jas.1:21. |Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.| 1 Pet.1:23. In Rom.1:16, Gal.3:26, Rev.5:9, and many other texts, we learn that all are accepted by God unto salvation through Christ. This necessitates an end of the law, since the law is given to the Jew only. There is no shift or revision made of the law in Christ to include both Jew and Gentile; it is simply done, and the gospel succeeds.
The apostles very clearly and decidedly teach an abolition of the ancient faulty Sinaitic law. Paul says, |Having abolished [destroyed -- Webster] in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man so making peace.| Eph.2:15. The enmity here spoken of is the enmity or separation made between the Jew and Gentile by the Mosaic law. This law of the Jews stood as a partition wall between the Israelite and the Gentile world. In Jesus this wall was torn down, and the Gentile as well as the Jew was offered salvation. In verse fourteen Paul says, |For he is our peace, who hath made both one [Jew and Gentile], and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.| The Jewish ordinances and laws that stood as a mighty wall between the Gentile and the Jew were broken down and all the world of every kindred, nation and tongue was given equal rights under an entirely new order of things.
The coming of Christ was the fulfilling of the law. The law was only given to serve until Jesus came. When he came its object or purpose was fulfilled and had an end. |But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.| Gal.3:23-25. This is plain, positive language. After faith or Christ has come we are no longer under a schoolmaster, which is the law. This accords with Rom.6:14: |For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.|
As we have before mentioned, the law did not deliver us from the power of sin; but after grace came by Jesus Christ we are not under the law, but under grace, and where sin once abounded, that is, had power or dominion, grace now much more abounds; therefore sin has no dominion over us. In Rom.7:4 the apostle tells us we have become dead to the law by the body of Christ.
In the seventh verse, still speaking of this law, to which we become dead by the body of Christ, he quotes one of the ten commandments, thereby teaching us that by the body of Christ we are no longer under the ten-commandment law. The ten-commandment law simply as the ten-commandment law is no more in force and effect than if it were never given. Some of the principles embodied in the ten commandments are embodied in the New Testament. These are in effect, not because they are principles of the ten commandments, but because they are principles of the New Testament. Must I as a Christian refrain from committing adultery because it is forbidden by one of the ten commandments? We answer, No. But as a Christian in this dispensation of the gospel I must refrain from such acts because it is forbidden in the New Testament. We must live in the spirit of the gospel. We could live without violation of this seventh commandment, and yet commit adultery according to the New Testament and be wholly destitute of the grace of God. Jesus says that |whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.| Mat.5:28. The salvation of the gospel removes such unholy desires from the heart.
|Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondmaid was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.| Gal.4:21-26. Here the apostle uses the two sons of Abraham allegorically. They represent the two covenants or testaments. See margin. The one by the bondmaid he uses to represent the testament or covenant given from Sinai. The one by the free woman, the covenant given by Christ, or the New Testament.
The apostle goes further and tells us what disposition to make of the two sons or testaments. |Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.| Gal.4:30, 31. The mission of the Sinaitic law is completed. It has finished its course. We are in the glorious freedom of the New Testament. Paul adds in the next chapter, |Stand fast therefore, in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.| Ver.1.
He speaks further of the two covenants in the eighth chapter of Hebrews, and says, |For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.| What was the covenant that God made with Israel when he led them out of the land of Egypt? It was the entire law given at Sinai, including the ten commandments. Whoever would here make a division in the covenant, and say only the ceremonial law is included in the covenant mentioned in these texts simply makes the assertion to sustain some adopted views of his creed. There is no foundation here for any division. This first, covenant is the whole covenant, and it was faulty. In verse thirteen he says it waxeth old and is ready to vanish away.
Continuing in the ninth chapter the apostle speaks of the ordinances of the first covenant, which stood in meals and drinks and divers washings. Ver.10. These ordinances of the first covenant were imposed upon them until the time of reformation. We are to understand by this that at the bringing in of the reformation they |vanished away.| In the Colossian letter he mentions those ordinances together with some others as being blotted out at Calvary. We will quote his words: |Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.| Col.2:14. In the sixteenth verse he tells us what ordinances were blotted out: |Let no man therefore [since they are nailed to the cross] judge you in meat or in drink, or in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days.| The Jew was denied by the law the privilege of eating certain kinds of meat. Such restrictions were nailed to the cross, and since Calvary nothing is |common or unclean.| Their holy days and solemn assemblies at certain stages of the moon find no place in the New Testament. The keeping of the Sabbath as commanded on the tables of stone was also nailed to the cross, therefore let no man judge us or bind these things upon us.
The Sabbath of the ten commandments had its mission. It was a shadow of good things to come. It was typical of the rest which is found in Jesus. Of all the types and shadows of the Sinaitic covenant, none is more beautiful than the keeping of the Sabbath. It foreshadows the rest or peacefulness of Christ's kingdom. Jesus says, |Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.| Mat.11:28, 29. The Old Testament prophets beheld the rest that was to be obtained in Jesus: |And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.| Isa.11:10.
That the seventh-day Sabbath kept by the Jews is the Christian day of worship is a heretical doctrine, being taught at the present day. To make clear to your understanding that the Sabbath of the ten-commandment law is not the Christian day of worship is our object in showing you it was only a type. If it was a type then certainly when we have reached the antitype the type has an end. Since the Word of God is so plain we feel confident we can make it clear and comprehensive to you. We will first quote from Heb.4:4-11: |For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works.| (See Gen.2:1-3.) |And in this place again. If they shall enter into my rest.| See third verse. |Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To-day, after so long a time, as it is said, To-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.|
We now wish to briefly review this quotation. In the fourth verse it is said that God rested on the seventh day from all his works. This is recorded in Gen.2:1-3. This is the |place| that the seventh-day rest is spoken of. But this day of rest is only a shadow of another day of rest. He speaks of another day. See seventh and eighth verses of quotation; also Psa.95:7, 8. |To-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart.| |For if Jesus had given them rest,| Rotherham says, |For if unto them Joshua had given rest.| See also margin of common version. Joshua led the children of Israel across the Jordan into the land of Canaan. This land is also typical of a restful state in the kingdom of grace. Had Joshua given them rest he would not have spoken of another day of rest. But they did not enter into his rest, therefore there remaineth another day of rest to the people of God. What day is it? It is the gospel day. The marginal rendering of the word |rest| is the |keeping of a Sabbath.| |Hence there is being left over a sabbath keeping for the people of God.| -- Rotherham. Like as God did cease from his own works and rest on the Sabbath, and as the Jews kept it strictly as a day of rest, so we in Jesus find rest and have ceased from our own works. It was all works under the law, but we have ceased from such works in Jesus. Therefore the Jewish Sabbath day of rest only typifies the blessed rest of the day of salvation by grace, and not by works.
Under the New Testament we keep as one of the early church fathers has said, |The day on which our Lord arose.| The writings of church history frequently make mention of Sunday (the first day of the week) as being the Christian's day of worship in commemoration of the resurrection of our Lord, in whom we are a new creation. The weekly meeting together of the Christians as recorded in the New Testament was always on the first day of the week. See Luke 24:33; John 20:19, 26; 1 Cor.16:2; Acts 20:6, 7. There is not one text in the New Testament recording a Christian meeting on the seventh day. Here are four texts recording meetings held on the first day. The Sabbath, as well as the whole of the ten-commandment and ceremonial law finds an end when we have come to |another day| -- the day of salvation, wherein we are a new creation.2 Cor.5:17.
We will close this subject by quoting 2 Cor.3, beginning at verse five: |Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the Spirit: for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life. But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory is to be done away: how shall not the ministration of the Spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. For if that which is done away is glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious. Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: and not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: but their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away.|
It is with reluctance that we refrain from comment on the above, however we believe the abolition of the whole Mosaic system to be so plain to every unprejudiced heart as to render comment unnecessary.
Christians possess a light; they are |children of light,| and are commanded to |let their light shine.| How can Christians shine the light of the gospel and of God? By their good works. Jesus says, |Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.| Mat.5:16. God has ordained that in Christ we should perform good works. |For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.| Eph.2:10. By the apostle Christians are exhorted to be careful to maintain good works. |This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works.| Titus 3:8. Then adds, |These things are good and profitable unto men.|
We have proven by the Word elsewhere that salvation from sin is not attained by good works alone, but after we are saved by grace we retain the grace by a strict and faithful performance of all Christian duties. The first neglect to perform a known duty is the first step the Christian takes on his return to the |beggarly elements of the world.| We are commanded to |search the scriptures.| By looking into this perfect |law of liberty,| and conforming our lives to the glorious truth taught there, we will be led into the beautiful walk of Christian virtue and duty. |All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.| When a house is |thoroughly furnished| we understand it is furnished in every room up-stairs and down. The Scriptures are given us that by searching them and receiving of their corrections, reprovings, and instructions we may be furnished in every department of our capabilities with good works. If man obeys the voice of the inspired Word of God he will be |a vessel unto honor, sanctified and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work.| Christians should be rich in good works. |That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate.| 1 Tim.6:18.
Saints should be fruitful in good works. |That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.| Saved people in some texts of Scripture are likened unto good trees. They are a tree that is abounding with the fruit of every good work. Christians are admonished to be ready to every good work. |Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work.| Titus 3:1. They should be established in them. |Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and stablish you in every good word and work.| 2 Thes.2:16, 17. They should abound to all good works. |And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.| 2 Cor.9:8.
The apostle prayed that they should be made perfect in every good work. |Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ: to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.| Heb.13:20, 21. This is a most precious text. |Working in you| in the margin is rendered |doing.| All the good things a Christian does is not him doing it, but it is God doing it in him, so he is not found going about telling what he has done.
Saints should provoke each other to good works. |And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works.| Heb.10:24. We know of no better way to provoke others to good works than by setting a good example before them. All their good works should be done in wisdom and meekness or humility. |Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation [or conduct] his works with meekness of wisdom.| Jas.3:13.
The people of God do not adorn themselves with gold and pearls and costly array to appear beautiful, |but with good works.| 1 Tim.2:9, 10. What can be more lovely than a character beautified by the ornaments of every good work in the meekness of wisdom? Glory to the name of Jesus! My soul feels like crying. |Lord, work more of thy good works in the hearts of thy people.| Man's works shall be brought into judgment. |For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.| 2 Cor.5:10. |For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.| Eccl.12:14.
That will be an awful hour when we are called before the tribunal of God and there have to unfold to the incomprehensible One our true character. Oh, what will it be worth in that day to hear him say, |Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.| Mat.25:34-36.
The cheerful giving of our worldly goods to help the needy or for the furtherance of the cause of Christ is a work very commendable in the sight of the Lord. |But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly, and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give, not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: as it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth forever.| 2 Cor.9:6-9.
To quote from the writings of a Christian friend will be sufficient on this subject, we think, to enable the reader to see the beauty and blessings in giving unto the needy and the cause of Christ as unto the Lord.
|We find both in prophecy and in the New Testament much about giving. In Amos, chapter four, we read, 'Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan, that are in the mountain of Samaria, which oppress the poor, which crush the needy, which say to their masters, Bring, and let us drink. The Lord God hath sworn by his holiness.... I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and want of bread in all your places: ... also I have withholden the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest.... I have smitten you with blasting and mildew: when your gardens and your vineyards and your fig-trees and your olive-trees increased, the palmer worm devoured them.... I have sent among you the pestilence, ... yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.'
|Dear ones, has such been your experience? Have your crops failed in this manner, and suffered for want of rain? Let us read further: 'Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return? Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy [corrupt, margin] the fruit of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruits before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts.' Mal.3:7-11.
|Bring in the tithes and offerings, that God may be pleased with you, and bless your labors that they be profitable. Before we proceed further, let us notice what offerings are accepted with God. 'But to do good and to communicate [share] forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.' Heb.13:16. To whom shall we communicate, or with whom shall we share? 'Let him that is taught in the Word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.... And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.' Gal.6:6-9. Here is one class. Share with those who teach you in the Word. 'Distributing to the necessity of saints: given to hospitality.' Rom.12:13. Distribute to needy saints, and God will never let you come to want for so doing. There is yet another class. 'As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.' Gal.6:10.
|We will now look into the New Testament Scriptures to see what God has promised there. These are Jesus' own words: 'Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.' Luke 6:38. Surely if any one is needy, he had better begin giving and receive the hundredfold. No danger of coming to want with such a promise from the great God hanging over you. Move out and no longer fear; for 'my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.' Phil.4:19. 'Yes,' says some one, 'you ministers and gospel workers can depend upon God for what you need, but we must work for what we get.' Will you please turn to Phil.4:9 and read on down very carefully. You will see that Paul was writing to them concerning giving; telling them how once and again he had received their gifts, and how he is still encouraging them to give more. He says, 'Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.' Ver.17. And that he had received 'the things which were sent from you, an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God.' [Giving to the poor and needy, or sending the gospel to those who sit in darkness, is an odorous sacrifice to God. How beautiful! The remembrance of our deeds of charity and hospitality being a sweet odor unto God must make such offerings a delight -- Auth.] Then he gives them this great promise that God would supply all their needs. He was not talking to preachers at all, although we can rest upon this promise, but to the church at Philippi. And the same Lord is rich unto all who call upon him. Praise his name!
|Now, you who are at home laboring in temporal things, and can not go yourselves to minister the Word of God to others, just let go of everything and get down before God and ask him how much you can give to help this work along. Here is an opportunity to do good to all men. And 'as ye have therefore opportunity, do good unto all men,' then you can take these promises for your own and depend upon God to supply all your needs. You can and need to be just as much given up to God, and just as dependent upon him as the ministry is. Who will help now, by means and prayers, to send the gospel to every creature and every land?|
Good works do not cease with giving. There are many opportunities for all to do good that God might be glorified. Even the poor will find many opportunities for doing something that will benefit some fellow creature, exalt the name of Jesus and bring a blessing to their own soul. There are the sick and the discouraged to be visited and prayed with. There are kind and sympathetic words that need to be spoken to lighten the burden of some weary heart. All around us are opportunities for loving deeds and good works that can be done as unto Jesus, which are precious treasures being laid up for us in the glory world.
Eating Of Meats.
Many are the arguments on this subject from the pulpit and the press, from the wise and not wise; and many have been deceived and led to believe that to eat or refuse to eat certain kinds of meat is a duty they either owe to themselves or to God. Many professed gospel preachers spend much time in discussing this subject of meats, and would have their followers believe that the eating of certain kinds of meat is an offense against God, and through their selfishness and ignorance endeavor to prove their arguments from the law of Moses, which was absolutely done away with when Christ died on the cross as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. I have no more to do with the law of Moses than I have with any law that has been repealed by the last act of Congress. It is disannulled and taken away by the one that succeeds it. Paul says, |Christ the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.| Rom.10:4.
The law was merely a temporary form of government until Christ should come, to whom the promise was made. It served as a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, but when Christ came we were no longer under a schoolmaster. Gal.3:19, 24.
|Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.| Gal.5:4. |That no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.| Gal.3:11. |Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law.| Gal.3:13. These scriptures show plainly that the law of Moses can not be taken as proof of the righteousness which Jesus Christ established; for, says the apostle, |The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.| John 1:17. So then the law was neither grace nor truth as regards matters pertaining to you and me.
The New Testament Scriptures settle most questions beyond all doubts, and leave no room for discussion. Paul speaks very lightly of this matter of eating meats, and his language shows it to be of no importance whatever. He says, |Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them.| 1 Cor 6:13. |For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.| Rom.14:17. The apostle means to set forth the idea that the kingdom of God has nothing to do with meat and drink, and such trifling things as dieting ourselves is not taken into consideration. But the kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost; it is a spiritual, not a physical existence. I may eat all kinds of meat and be in the kingdom of God or I may eat no meat and be in the kingdom of God.
Christ said, |There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him; but the things which come out of him.... Are ye so without understanding also? do ye not perceive that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man it can not defile him; ... because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats.| Mark 7:15, 19. |That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these evil things come from within and defile the man.| Mark 7:20-23.
Paul says, |Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.| Rom.14:3. |I know and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.| Rom.14:14. And again, |Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days.| Col.2:16. Paul says, |The Spirit speaketh expressly [notice he says the Spirit speaketh expressly], that in the latter time some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils: speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer.| 1 Tim.4:1-5.
Now note carefully the apostles language. Those who forbid to marry and command to abstain from meats are classed with those who hold forth the doctrine of devils, and speak lies in hypocrisy. It is the doctrine of devils to say that any meat is unclean; for said he, God created them and they are his creatures. Then he goes on to say to Timothy, |If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.| 1 Tim.4:6. If any kind of meat is offensive to me, there is no law either natural or divine that says I must eat. I have a right to abstain from it if I choose. It is no sin for me to do that, but I have no right to say to others, It is a sin for you to eat pork or any other kind of meat.
The Sin Against The Holy Ghost.
|Wherefore I say unto you. All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.| Mat.12:31, 32.
|Verily I say unto you. All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.| Mark 3:28-30.
|And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven.| Luke 12:10.
From these texts of Scripture we learn that all manner of sin is pardonable, save one, the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. There is no crime too great, or sin too deeply dyed to be forgiven, except the one designated in these scriptures. Well might it be asked, What is that sin? It is evident that the Holy Spirit (which is the same as the Holy Ghost) is no more supreme or important than others of the trinity; so therefore why should all blasphemy against the Father or Son be pardonable, and the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit be unpardonable. The answer will be found to lie in the nature and office work of the Holy Spirit, as being different from that of the Father or Son. Of course the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all one; yet they might well be considered as three, when we speak of their respective offices. The Father, the grand author of all good, the Creator of the world, the one who holdeth all things in his control, the designer of the glorious plan of redemption of fallen man. The Son, the one on whom that redemption depended, who only was found worthy to open the book and loose the seals of the divine plan, and thus make salvation possible. The Holy Spirit, the one who, after the Father and Son had perfected their work, was sent to reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. He it is that strives with men by way of a kind of inherent knowledge, testifying to them of salvation's waters flowing free, and that they should forsake sin and plunge therein. By the Holy Spirit is God's way of manifesting himself to men, convicting them of sin, righteousness, and judgment. True, as Paul says, God |hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son;| but notice, it is |hath spoken.| The Son has done his part, we have his words on record, and he is at the right hand of the Father; and he has himself said that he would go away, that the Comforter (Holy Spirit) might come. And now we are living in the special dispensation of the Holy Spirit.
The sin against the Holy Ghost, as it is commonly called, is also known as the |unpardonable sin,| and the |sin unto death.| See 1 John 5:16. As we before said, the answer to the question, Why is it unpardonable, lies in the very nature of the Holy Spirit's relationship to man. Are we to suppose that it is some sin too heinous to be forgiven? or that God has decided that this sin is one that bears too heavily against his willingness to forgive? or, in other words, that his great love is not sufficient, were it weighed in the balance with this sin? Nay; that is not the light in which it is to be regarded. This is a sin that is different in its effects from other sins. It is one by which man unprivileges himself to be saved. He disconnects himself, so to speak, from all possible operations or strivings of the Spirit of God with him. He might blaspheme God, or the Son, and it would be the same as any other sin. But he blasphemes the Spirit whenever he takes action against (and casts out, so to speak) that inherent principle in him which tends to draw him to God. By so doing he places himself outside the realm of possibilities, as regards his own salvation: for he severs all possible communication from God to him, unless it be what is manifest by the presentation of awful fear of approaching damnation.
It will be seen that in committing this sin a man by choice wilfully places himself in such a position, in reference to the inner dictations of the Spirit, that the latter is killed or destroyed. He can blaspheme God, and the convictions of the Spirit in him be unaffected, save that continual so doing might lessen them; but when he blasphemes the Spirit -- it being so interwoven as to be, in a sense, a part of himself -- he involves his own soul, by taking a stand against himself, as it were, thereby unfitting and unqualifying himself to be further affected by the Spirit. He drowns, dissolves, annihilates the inner strivings of the Spirit.
If we examine carefully the quotation from Mark, we see by verse thirty that the reason Christ said what he did about blasphemy against the Holy Ghost was because certain scribes said he had an unclean spirit, and cast out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of devils. Now whether they thereby committed the blasphemy of the Spirit, we do not know; but from Christ's words that followed, a strong inference could be drawn that they did. It was at least a close step to it, and depended on the degree of inherent knowledge they had that Jesus was the Christ. If they did it ignorantly, it was not blasphemy.
In the sixth chapter of the Hebrews, verses four to eight, the apostle speaks of such as have been partakers of the Holy Ghost, and were enlightened, etc., who, if they shall |fall away,| directly disinherit themselves of the privilege of being renewed unto repentance, and |crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.| By so doing they virtually do violence to the Spirit's convictions to such an extent that they blaspheme the Spirit. We are persuaded that Paul here had no reference to a person being overcome of the devil in some great temptation so as to commit sin, while at the same time the soul protests against sin. That would not be falling away (as here meant) from the love, neither the faith of God. Indeed, it is the very love of God, as well as the Spirit's convictions, that causes such a one to have immediate sorrow for the sin committed, and causes the soul to quickly flee to God again. But what the apostle meant by |falling away| was to forsake the Lord, give up the faith, walk no more in the truth or with God's children, and be content to live in sin. But take notice of the standard which he gives, from which |falling away| may be considered. He says, |those who were once enlightened,| had |tasted of the heavenly gift,| were |partakers of the Holy Ghost,| had |tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come;| if such fall away -- forsake the Lord and choose to live in sin -- they soon become incapable of being affected by any manifestation of the Spirit or any inducement held out to them -- a deplorable, lost condition! bearing only thorns and briers! whose end is to be burned! Now we ask, Who ever saw any one come back to God who was content to remain away from God, after having had the experience described in Heb.6:4, 5? We have seen some who exactly correspond to the description Paul gives here, but we have never known any such to come back to the truth. May we use this, as the apostle intended it, as a warning against unfaithfulness to God.
In Heb.10:26-29 the apostle makes mention of the same conditions, only in a different way. Here he speaks of sinning wilfully |after that we have received the knowledge of the truth.| Of course, all sin, to be sin, is done more or less wilfully; but the apostle can not have reference to a sin committed on account of a spiritual lack, while the soul meaningly presses on in the race for God. We know that such a sin does not unfit one to become pardoned again, the Holy Spirit is not blasphemed, and therefore the sacrifice (Christ) still remains, to which the soul may flee. To |sin wilfully| here means more, as is unmistakably implied in verses twenty-eight and twenty-nine. He illustrates by one who despised Moses' law, as though he now means one who is despising the law of Christ; and he explains himself in verse twenty-nine, where we see he has reference to one |who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace.| Here |sin wilfully| comprehends the blasphemy of the Spirit, and he evidently means, by the term, a wilful turning again to a life of sin, a deliberate giving up of the faith, and choosing sin instead. This is also used as a stimulus to the saints to exhort one another, and neglect not the assembling of themselves together, or the provoking unto love and good works, etc.
From these two places in the Hebrews it might be supposed that to be in an unpardonable condition a person must have once been saved. But the apostle in both places is necessarily addressing saved people, and holds up such a condition as a warning against unfaithfulness. He deals in what is applicable to them. But this does not prove that a man who has never known the way of truth may not also place himself where he is unpardonable.
It is safe and Scriptural to take the stand that a person is pardonable so long as he is capable of being sorry for his sin, for God's sake, or of having a real desire to love and serve God. The promise and privilege is to |whosoever will.| This is as broad as broad can be, and whoever wills can know assuredly that salvation is for him, not withstanding the disputations of the devil to the contrary. In Heb.12:16, 17 one would infer from the apostle's illustration of Esau that a person can be in a condition where repentance may be earnestly desired, even with tears, yet impossible to be found. But genuine repentance is not implied here. The margin has it, |He [Esau] found no place to change his mind,| instead of |no place for repentance.| A person may commit the unpardonable sin and still desire to change his condition or lot; he may through fear of eternal damnation desire rather the position of a Christian: but he never repents, he can not repent, it is not |in him| to repent, he will not meet the conditions for salvation, and no one can get him to do so. He may bewail his condition and stand in dread of the judgment, from a feeling of selfish protection; he may be sorry for his sins as a criminal may be sorry for his crime when he is sentenced to be punished: but he has no inclination to godly sorrow; in fact, the spirit of the man and the Spirit of God are incompatible; he has placed himself where the Spirit of God can in no way bring itself to bear upon him. Oh, how awful is such a state! But he is not conscious of any awfulness from having offended God; his awfulness proceeds from a sense of his being eternally lost. The only impulses that might draw such a one to seek the Christian state are those of the selfish kind, just as a man may desire salvation from a belief that it would be conducive to his selfish interest. A person will never get an experience of salvation through such motives; and in the case of the one who has committed the blasphemy of the Spirit, he may have such motives, but he can never have the genuine kind, or in other words, be drawn of the Spirit. Such a sin need not be prayed for.1 John 5:16. It is certainly a sin unto death.
In conclusion we would say that the unpardonable sin is not to be regarded as some particular sin, singled out from all others, as though it were some form of murder, lying, or stealing, more heinous than the rest. But it lies in the nature of the sin committed, as affecting the relationship with the Holy Spirit. A person may have committed a whole list of the blackest crimes, and yet not have committed the unpardonable sin; or vice versa, a person may have a good standing in point of morality, and yet have blasphemed the Spirit, and severed himself from all possibility of repentance. We would say to every despairing soul seeking salvation, that if you are capable of having the least godly sorrow on account of your sin, or a real, inward desire to serve God, you can rest assured that you have not committed the unpardonable sin. If you feel the Spirit of God telling you that you ought to be saved, then salvation is for you. The unpardonable sin deprives a person of the desire to will to love and serve God and obey the truth. So in the language of Scripture we continue to hold out the blessed invitation -- |Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.| Amen.
When we behold the mechanism of man, we are made to exclaim with the Psalmist, |I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.| Man is so constituted as to experience a feeling of joy when a desired object is obtained, or a feeling of disappointment if it is not obtained. When danger approaches he intuitively seeks to avert it, and experiences a feeling of gladness if he succeeds. Among the elements of man's moral nature the highest and most important, perhaps, is the conscience. Conscience is a principle which God has placed in man's moral being to teach him what is right and what is wrong. Some have said that conscience is the |voice of God in the soul.| It is a voice that is inaudible to the ear, but we feel it speaking in us, saying, |This action is right,| or, |That action is wrong.| We believe that Solomon was referring to the conscience when he said, |The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly.| Prov.20:27.
Where there is no known law, conscience becomes our guide and the standard by which we are judged. For proof of this we will quote Rom.2:14, 15: |For when the Gentiles, which have not a law, do by nature [a kind of intuitive knowledge of right] the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves; which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another.| In many circumstances of life we have no written law of God to guide our actions, consequently must be directed by reason and conscience, which are highly analogous. To be perfectly and properly directed by the conscience necessitates a close walk with God. |Keeping in touch with God| is God in our conscious being, impressing us with proper actions, and leading us in the right way, and showing us the relationship existing between the pure soul and the Deity. Where there is no written law of God to direct the actions in a certain circumstance, those who experience a close connection with God will always act the most wisely; because the |candle of the Lord| (the conscience) is a light in them, impressing them with feelings of right in the matter.
The conscious principle in the moral nature suffered greatly in the fall of man, and is seriously impaired by violation of the known laws of God, or laws of conscience. There is a beautiful harmony between truth and a correct conscience. Obedience to the truth is always approved by an unimpaired conscience. When a known truth is violated, a searing influence is introduced upon the conscience, which grows with every violation, until the conscience becomes seared as with a hot iron. Dangers of delusion lie in the fact that after a succession of violations, the conscience becomes so morbid that it fails to be a correct judge of action. After a time a man can violate a plain truth without experiencing any sting of conscience; therefore he concludes his actions are right, because he experiences no condemnation, though they are in opposition to the truth. There is great beauty in the thought, and gratification in the knowledge, that by obedience to the truth we can obtain a sound moral condition, whose conscientious principles are so acute that there is a timely warning at every approach of error.
To possess a purged, pure, and undefiled conscience is our privilege in the economy of grace. See Heb.9:14; 1 Tim.3:9; Titus 1:15. To possess an unimpaired conscience and then so meet all our obligations to God and man is to have a conscience void of offense. What implicit confidence we can have in God when in a normal moral condition, and have an uncondemned heart. Enoch walked with God and had the witness (consciousness) that he pleased the Lord. What can bring greater happiness to the heart of man? The man who, having an undefiled moral being has a conscience void of offense toward God and man, experiences a satisfaction and a happiness unsurpassed by any mortal being.
The Two Families.
The Scriptures talk of two classes of people on the earth. The inhabitants of this globe are by the Word of God divided into two great families. One family is termed the righteous, and the other the unrighteous. One is the godly, the other the ungodly. One is the holy, the other the unholy. The righteous family is likened unto or called sheep, the unrighteous family, goats. Mat.25:32, 33. They are interspersed throughout the earth. When the Son of man is come they shall be separated. One family shall be admitted into an eternity of bliss, the other into an eternity of punishment. One family is represented by a good tree, the other by an evil tree. In the parable of the sower the Savior likens one family unto wheat, and the other unto tares.
Since there are two families there are, of course, two fathers. God is the Father of one of these families (2 Cor.6:18), and Satan is the father of the other, John 8:44. These fathers are sometimes called masters. |One is your Master, even God.| Now every individual on the globe is either in servitude to one or the other of these masters -- never to both. |No man can serve two masters.| |His servants ye are to whom ye obey, whether of sin unto death or of obedience unto righteousness.|
The Scriptures so plainly locate the dividing line between these two families that all can very well know to which family they belong. Those who are born into God's family do not commit sin.1 John 3:9; 1 John 5:18. Those belong to the devil's family who do commit sin.1 John 3:8. This is very plain. None need be mistaken. Those who do not commit sin are the wheat or good seed, and are children of the kingdom. Those who do commit sin are the tares or children of the wicked one. Mat.13. Those who do not commit sin have their names written in heaven. But those who sin do not have their names written there (Ex.32:33), therefore are not members in the family of God.
It is said that some people are mistaken as to which family they belong, but it is |not every one that saith, Lord, Lord, that shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.| God's family are righteous, they are holy, they are pure, they are saints. Satan's family are unrighteous, they are unholy, they do not believe in purity, they commit sin. The Savior has gone to prepare a place for his own so that where he is there they may forever be -- glory! glory! Those who live and die in sin can not go to that pure and happy place. John 8:21. Dear friend, get ready. Live a pure, holy life and spend an eternity in the blissful presence of our dear Redeemer. God bless you, is my sincere prayer.
The Two Ways.
This earth is only man's transitory home. He lives here a few years, then goes to an eternity. There are two abodes or dwelling-places for man in that eternity. One is called heaven, the other is called hell. One is a place of peace and joy, the other a place of torment and woe. One place is called eternal life, the other is called eternal death.
As man enters upon his journey of life two ways are set before him. Deut.30:15, 19. One way leads to heaven, and is called the way of life and good. The other way leads to hell, and is called the way of death and evil. The way to heaven is denominated the holy way, where walk the redeemed. The ransomed ones go singing on this way with crowns of joy upon their heads. This way shines more and more, brighter and brighter, as it nears the end.
The way to hell is denominated the way of the transgressor. It is a hard way. There is no peace there, no rest. The darkness becomes more dense, and fears increase as it nears the end. The way to everlasting life in heaven is called a narrow way. Mat.7:14. There are few that walk this way. The way that leads to destruction is a broad way. Mat.7:13. There are many who are walking in that way. Dear reader, will you not choose the way of life and make heaven your eternal and happy home?
Conclusion Of Part First.
We have now reached the conclusion of the first division of the Gospel Day, namely, The Morning. We have not given the reader our opinion, or our interpretation of the Scriptures, but we have given the pure, simple Bible truths as taught by Christ and the apostles. It is not our doctrine, but the doctrine of him that sent us. What we have taught is in perfect accord with the Bible, and who can gainsay it?
To believe, experience, and live the truths of God's Word is to be a light in the world. To disbelieve any part, to come short of any part in practical life, is to be to the same extent in darkness. Christ was a light because he was the Word. The early church and apostles were a light because they believed, experienced and practised in life the whole Word. The Bible was written in their hearts as well as in the book. The Bible never changes. God never changes, the nature of faith and grace never changes, and true gospel light never changes. What created light in the first century of this Christian era will create light in any other century, and nothing but what was light in the primitive days of Christianity will be light at any other time. Whatever may be claimed to be light, if it is not the light of Christ, is a false light.
May God help people to see the true light. Oh, glorious light of the morning! Christ and his church in all humility, gentleness, spotlessness and love. In their lowly, inoffensive walk with God, holy, harmless, undefiled, unblamable, separated from and unspotted by the world, persecuted, rejected, and despised by men. Enduring all without a murmur, contented in any and every circumstance of life; counting everything joy, glorying in tribulation, patient in imprisonments, in stripes, in tumults, in hunger, in fastings, in necessities, in afflictions, in distresses, always rejoicing. When reviled, they reviled not again; when they suffered they threatened not, but showing all meekness and gentleness unto all men, loving and praying for their enemies, feeding them when they hungered and giving them drink when they thirsted, preaching the gospel without money and without price, led exclusively by the Holy Spirit, having power with God over devils to cast them out, to heal the sick and lame, to restore sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, to give speech to the dumb, and to raise the dead. Wonderful light of the gospel morning! Dear reader, we invite you to look upon the picture. See it in its beautiful transparent effulgent light. Pure as heaven, holy as a band of angels, peaceful as the silent, flowing river, harmless as the gentle dove, in a oneness equal with the holy trinity, and conquerors of sickness, sin and Satan. Such was the pure virgin bride of Christ -- the church -- when she was the light of the world.
O Moon -- so fair in the rosy morn,
Reflecting the light of Christ -- the Sun,
So spotless and pure in robes of white,
Beautiful, wonderful city of light.