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    July 28, 1890

    “Church Union” The Signs of the Times, 16, 29.

    E. J. Waggoner

    We have received a very interesting pamphlet entitled, “Which? One Church or Many?” written by W. K. Marshall, D.D., of the Methodist Episcopal Church, introduced by Dr. James Burrell, of the Presbyterian Church, the object of which is to advance the idea of a union of the various Protestant churches. The author quotes the numerous passages of Scripture which speak of the unity that should exist among the followers of Christ, declaring the church of Christ to be one body and which rebuke the tendency to schisms in the church, and then briefly reviews church history. Coming to our own country, he finds many powerful reasons for church union, chief of which are the growing disregard of Sunday; the gigantic proportions of the liquor traffic; the boldness and impudence of infidelity; the encroachments of Romanism, and secularism upon our public-school system; the corruption of party politics; and the rapid growth of cities, and the diminishing proportion of church-membership. These things, he says, “cry loudly for some kind of organic and practical union among the churches of Protestantism, which has not yet been realized, that they may stand solid, compact, aggressive, triumphant in the face of these mighty forces of evil which confront us upon every hand.”SITI July 28, 1890, page 420.1

    After noticing the hopeful signs on such a union manifested in the different churches, he mentions as the five points upon which there must be agreement: The recognition of the right of every Christian to the Lord’s table, no matter by whom spread; the recognition of the right of all Christians to their private judgment; the validity of the ordination of the ministry in all orthodox bodies; the willingness of each sect to surrender and totally abandon everything that stands in the way of recovering the lost unity of the church, although each body is to retain its own distinctive organization; and then he summarizes the methods and results as follows:-SITI July 28, 1890, page 420.2

    “Such a union as would cover these five points, it is believed, might be brought about by a federation of all Protestant bodies, and as exists among the different States of our republic, each single body preserving its denominational integrity and independence as to ecclesiastical polity. Its peculiarities as the methods and all doctrinal faith, and in all practical methods of a general missionary work, the evangelization of the masses in the great cities, the building of hospitals, orphan asylums, training-schools, deaconesses’ homes, Bible-schools, the support of Sabbath observance, temperance, and other reforms, the enforcement of just and righteous laws for the promotion of public morality, and all other enterprises and agencies that tend to herald the day when our Lord and Saviour will indeed claim the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession.”SITI July 28, 1890, page 420.3

    We have outlined the little book thus at length because we think that it is a very significant sign of the times. While we recognize the Christian spirit and honest purpose of the author, we cannot fail to recognize in his plan the erroneous idea that is becoming so prevalent, that the church is, by some sort of combination, to purify politics, and by means of purified politics to bring in the millennium. Our criticism, in brief, is as follows:-SITI July 28, 1890, page 420.4

    1. We know that as Christ is not divided, his church is not divided. “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling.” Ephesians 4:4. The true members of Christ’s body are all baptized by one Spirit into that body (1 Corinthians 12:13); and this shows that any union that is mechanical, and not the result of the direct operation of the Holy Spirit, will be no real union. It will be the same as a “marriage of convenience.” All who have the one Spirit are by that Spirit made members of one body. They form a real union, and not a confederation.SITI July 28, 1890, page 420.5

    2. While unity is a very desirable thing, it is not desirable if truth has to be sacrificed to attain it. It is deplorable that there are so many sects in Christendom; but those divisions are inevitable, so long as people do not hold to the same things; and only the Holy Spirit can cause men to see alike. The truth of God is the only true basis of church union, and those who do not agree upon this cannot be really united, no matter what combination is formed. If it is claimed that men “cannot see alike,” we have only to reply that they can if they are led by the one Spirit; for the Holy Spirit is given for the purpose of leading believers into all truth; and since there is only one Spirit, one truth, and one hope, people must see alike just to the extent that they are led by that Spirit.SITI July 28, 1890, page 426.1

    3. If a union were effected by any other than purely spiritual means, the inevitable result would be the using of the combined power in an unspiritual manner, to influence politics, and then would be demonstrated the truth of the statement that “combinations of religious bodies for political purposes are always dangerous,” and this notwithstanding the good intentions of the people so combining. Such a federation of churches into one general church, working for the ends proposed, some of which directly involve legislation, would be nothing less than a State church; and the evils that would result would be vastly greater than those which now exist.SITI July 28, 1890, page 426.2

    Therefore while we most heartily believe in Christian union, we have no confidence in any scheme of a union of churches. The latter may be brought about by negotiations between the representatives of leading denominations; the former only by a faithful preaching of the truth as it is in Jesus, depending upon no power but the power of the Spirit. E. J. W.SITI July 28, 1890, page 426.3

    “Communion Wine” The Signs of the Times, 16, 29.

    E. J. Waggoner

    The pastor of St. Paul’s M. E. Church, in Lowell, Mass., has decided upon an innovation. In a conversation following a recent class-meeting, one of the members stated that before his conversion he was addicted to the use of liquor, and that he strongly disapproved the use of wine at the sacrament, as he had twice fallen, by the temptation thus placed in his way. The pastor stated that he could never pass the wine to this brother after learning this fact, and he had long been debating in his mind the advisability of discontinuing its use. He was followed by others, who strongly urged him to use pure water instead of wine at the communion service, commencing next Sunday. This he promised to do, and his promise was unanimously indorsed. Consequently, nothing but pure water will be used at the communion service at St. Paul’s hereafter, and it is believed to be the first Methodist Church to adopt the practice.”SITI July 28, 1890, page 426.4

    The Lowell Mail, from which the above is taken, adds:-SITI July 28, 1890, page 426.5

    “This question was agitated in this city at a union meeting of the Methodist Churches some years ago, but its adoption was defeated by a single vote.”SITI July 28, 1890, page 426.6

    Thus one unscriptural practice leads to another. To use water instead of wine at communion is the same as having no communion at all. Such a ceremony is most certainly not the one which the Saviour instituted. The Catholic Church is more consistent in withholding the cup entirely from the laity, although it uses it in the mass.SITI July 28, 1890, page 426.7

    But all this perversion of the ordinance would be avoided if the communion were celebrated, as it should be, with the “fruit of the vine,” the pure, unfermented grape juice. This, and this only, is fit to be used as an emblem of “the precious blood of Christ,”-the incorruptible thing by which we are redeemed,-and there is no more danger in it than there is in the fruit which is served daily upon the table. The Lord knew what he was doing when he instituted the Lord’s Supper; and he never sets temptation in any man’s ways. When men try to improve on his ordinances, they always get into trouble.SITI July 28, 1890, page 426.8

    “The True Circumcision. Romans 2:17-29” The Signs of the Times, 16, 29.

    E. J. Waggoner

    “Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, and knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; and art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law. Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? Thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? Thou that makest they boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonorest thou God? For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. Therefore, if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfill the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”SITI July 28, 1890, page 426.9

    Before dwelling upon the one central thought of these verses, we will call attention to a few of the incidental points. From verses 17 and 18 we learn that the law of God, in which the Jews made their boast, is the will of God. They knew the will of God, because they were instructed out of the law. This fact settles the matter of the breadth, the holiness, and the unchanging nature of the law of God. Someone may object that the law could not be the perfect expression of God’s will, since the Jews, who rested in it, were so far from perfect. But Paul provides the answer to that by showing that although they rested in the law, it was only the pride of possession which they felt, while they disregarded its claims.SITI July 28, 1890, page 426.10

    “Which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law.” In Coneybeare and Howsen’s free translation, this is rendered, “Possessing in the law the perfect pattern of knowledge and of truth.” This is exactly what the law is, and this is why those who are instructed out of it are able to “approve the things that are more excellent” (see verse 18), or, as the margin says, “try the things that differ,” or, as Conybeare and Howsen put it, still more plainly, “give judgment upon good and evil.” The law of God-the ten commandments-is that by which every work, with every secret thing, is to be brought into judgment.” See Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14.SITI July 28, 1890, page 426.11

    Verses 21-23 contain a series of pointed questions, which are in reality a strong arraignment of those “who trusted in themselves, because they do the same things; and he clinches the point so plainly implied in his questions, by saying, “For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.” Reference is here unmistakably made to 2 Samuel 12:14, where we find that the prophet Nathan, speaking of David’s adultery, said to him, “Because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.” Therefore, when the apostle said to the Jews, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you,” he directly charged them with living in open violation of the law which they professed to honor. Professors of religion may cause the name of God to be blasphemed, by living lives contrary to their profession; and thus, although they may appear very reverent in their speech, they may be guilty of violating the third commandment. So true is it that the breaking of one commandment involves violation of another.SITI July 28, 1890, page 426.12

    Having now convicted the Jews of transgression of the law of God, and shown that they are therefore even worse than the heathen, who had not the written law, the apostle proceeds to show (in verses 23-25) that they are not in reality Jews at all. This is a very important passage of Scripture. It proves not only that God is not now a respecter of persons, but that he never was, and that the condition sof his favor are the same to all people in all ages.SITI July 28, 1890, page 426.13

    “For circumcision verily profiteth if thou keep the law.” As will be seen more directly from chap. 3:1, 2 when we reach it, the term “circumcision” has not so much reference to the physical act as to the people who were specially represented by it. “The circumcision” and “the uncircumcision” were common terms to indicate the Jews and the Gentiles. See Galatians 2:7-9. So when Paul said that circumcision profits if they keep the law, he meant that it was a good thing to be a Jew if one kept the law. Wherein the profit lay, we shall learn in the next chapter.SITI July 28, 1890, page 426.14

    “But if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.” That is, those who were circumcised as the literal descendants of Abraham, were in reality not circumcised, and were consequently not children of Abraham, if they did not keep the law. This was what John the Baptist told the Pharisees who flocked to his baptism. Calling them a viper’s brood, he said, “And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father; for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” Matthew 3:9. Sooner than acknowledge such hypocrites as children of Abraham, God would make children out of stones. Jesus, also, when the wicked Jews said, “Abraham is our father,” replied: “If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God; this did not Abraham.” John 8:39, 40. And then he directly charged them with being children of the devil.SITI July 28, 1890, page 426.15

    “Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?” Let it be remembered that only Abraham’s children are the children of God (Galatians 3:29), and that all of Abraham’s children were to be circumcised. Genesis 17:10. But in the verse just quoted, Paul says that keeping the law is counted to an uncircumcised man as circumcision. Therefore, although according to the Scriptures only the circumcised are the children of God, it follows that the man who obeyed God is and was owned as a child of God, even though the rite of circumcision had never been performed upon him. And this is in harmony with Peter’s statement that “God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” Acts 10:34, 35.SITI July 28, 1890, page 427.1

    The whole matter is summed up and emphasized in the last two verses, which we requite:-SITI July 28, 1890, page 427.2

    “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”SITI July 28, 1890, page 427.3

    A few parallel texts will indicate the harmony of the Scriptures on this point. In Ephesians 2:11 the apostle Paul speaks to the converts from among the heathen as those who were “called uncircumcision by that which is called the circumcision in the flesh.” He does not speak of either party absolutely, as being uncircumcised or circumcised, but as being “called uncircumcision” and called “circumcision.” This is in keeping with his statement that “circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandment of God.” 1 Corinthians 7:19.SITI July 28, 1890, page 427.4

    In Philippians 3:3 Paul says, “We are the circumcision, which worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh;” and in Acts 7:51-53 we learn from Stephen that the Jews were “uncircumcised in heart and ears,” because they resisted the Holy Ghost, and had not kept the law, which they had received by the disposition of angels. This, taken in connection with Romans 2:28, 29, proves that true circumcision was of the heart. In harmony with this idea were the words of Jesus to Nathanael, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile.” John 1:47.SITI July 28, 1890, page 427.5

    Let not the reader get the idea that this view of circumcision, and of the true Israel, is peculiar to what is known as “the Christian dispensation.” Nothing less than yielding the heart to the influences of the Holy Spirit, and keeping the commandments of God, has ever been recognized as true circumcision. In Romans 4:10, 11 Paul speaks of the time when circumcision was first given to Abraham, and says that “he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised.” Circumcision, therefore, was a sign of righteousness, and a sign does not of itself amount to anything if the thing signified is wanting. And so even in the days of Abraham, Moses, and the later prophets, the outward form counted for nothing with the Lord; only obedience was counted as circumcision.SITI July 28, 1890, page 427.6

    This is shown by Deuteronomy 30:6-8: “And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live. And the Lord thy God will put all these curses upon thine enemies, and on them that hate thee, which persecute thee. And thou shalt return and obey the voice of the Lord, and do all his commandments which I command thee this day.” See also chap. 10:16, and Jeremiah 4:4.SITI July 28, 1890, page 427.7

    A right idea of what really constituted a Jew, according to the Scripture, constituted a Jew, according to the Scripture, will settle many a disputed point. It shows the unity of God’s plan of salvation; that he was not partial in choosing the Jews; and that his requirements are the same in all generations. It helps us to understand also the full extent of the promises to the Jews, and lifts the Old Testament history out of the narrow boundaries which so many regard it as occupying. It settles the question as to the return of their own land, and enables us to see wisdom and justice in the statement that “all Israel shall be saved.” E. J. W.SITI July 28, 1890, page 427.8

    “Notes on the International Lesson. The Prodigal Son. Luke 15:22-21” The Signs of the Times, 16, 29.

    E. J. Waggoner

    (Luke, August 3, 1890, p. 15.)

    There are few more comforting passages of Scripture than the parable of the prodigal son. Coming in the connection that it does, it carries its explanation with it: It is a most graphic representation of the love of God for the rebellious sons of men, and of his longing to receive them to himself again. It is true that it was spoken for the special benefit of the scribes and Pharisees, who murmured because Jesus received publicans and sinners, being designed to show how more than willing God is to receive the most degraded and despised sinners; but this very fact makes it the more valuable, for if he will receive such, we may know that he will receive all. It is a vivid illustration of the saying, “Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.”SITI July 28, 1890, page 427.9

    The younger son in the parable may stand for all sinners. Everything that they have they have received from God; yet, forgetful of their obligation to him, they have despised his ways, and have “gone away backward.” We may not press too closely the main points in the narrative, which are necessary to give it form; yet it seems allowable to compare the young man’s joining himself to a citizen of the country, when he began to be in want, to the sinner’s plunging deeper into sin in order to shake off the first convictions of sin. How often when the want of God first makes itself felt, a man thinks to satisfy the want by joining himself more closely to the world.SITI July 28, 1890, page 427.10

    “And he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat; and no man gave unto him.” He was now deserted by the false friends that flocked around him in his prosperous days, and was denied even the poor privilege of trying to satisfy his craving with the coarsest kind of fare. The husks, it is hardly necessary to say, were not the husks of corn, but were the pods of the carob tree, which somewhat resembled the locust.SITI July 28, 1890, page 427.11

    “And when he came to himself, he said.... I will arise and go to my father.” Although his position as a feeder of swine, forsaken by his companions, and starving, seems a most pitiable one, he was far better off now than when he was spending his substance in riotous living. Then he was intoxicated, and unable to distinguish the proper relation of things. Now the dizzy whirl had ceased, and he came to himself. He was in just as bad condition before as now, but he didn’t know it. The worst thing about backslidden professors is not that they are “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked,” but that, being in this condition, they know it not.SITI July 28, 1890, page 427.12

    The office of the Holy Spirit is to convince of sin and of righteousness. Often the conviction is produced in a way that seems very humiliating. Too often, when the conviction has been brought about by plain reproof, the sinner becomes angry at the reproof, thinking that it was administered for the purpose of humiliating him. He does not realize that the humiliation which he feels is due entirely to the position in which he has placed himself, and which the reproof has revealed to him. The reproof which brings conviction shows the kindness of God in seeking to rescue him from his fallen condition. The witness of the Spirit that we are the children of God is no surer evidence that God cares for us than is the reproof of his Spirit, which brings the shame of conviction, “Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourageth every son whom he receiveth.”SITI July 28, 1890, page 427.13

    Note how quickly the father cuts short the confession. He does not wait for him to go into a detailed account of all the evil deeds that he has committed. It is enough that the so has returned repentant to his father’s house. He is alive, and coming back to put himself under the father’s care and guidance. The son had no claim on the father; he had spent all the portion of the estate that would have fallen to him, yet the father receives him on the same footing as though he had never gone astray.SITI July 28, 1890, page 428.1

    And so the great point to be learned from this parable is that God receives sinners just as they are. If the poor prodigal had thought, when he came to a sense of his need, that he must fix himself up with a decent suit of clothes before he could go to his father, he would never have gone. The sinner is justified only by faith; and faith comes only when self-trust ceases. Whoever is overwhelmed with the sense of his sin, and despised, perhaps, by men, may know that for him there is hope, for “this Man receiveth sinners.” E. J. W.SITI July 28, 1890, page 428.2

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