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    February 15, 1883

    “A Lesson from as Ezra” The Signs of the Times, 9, 7.

    E. J. Waggoner

    In the action of Ezra as he was about to go up to Jerusalem to rebuild the city, there is a lesson for those who at the present time are asking the aid of civil authority in favor of Sunday observance. He had received permission from the king to go up to Jerusalem, and had gathered together a company of his people for that purpose. But the country to which they were to pass was hostile, and they were not men of war, and could not defend themselves. The king was well-disposed toward them, and would no doubt have given them a guard of soldiers if they had desired it. But Ezra would not ask help from the king; “for,” said he, “I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and the horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way; because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him.” Ezra knew that if he should ask for assistance, the king would think that the Lord was not with them, or else that they were afraid to trust him. So he proclaimed a fast, that they might afflict themselves before God, to seek of him the right way. Ezra 8:21. And the result is summed up in these words: “So we fasted and besought our God for this; and he was intreated of us.”SITI February 15, 1883, page 75.1

    If Ezra had not been convinced that he was doing the work of the Lord, he would not have trusted in the Lord, but would have asked the assistance of the king. In every instance where people ask for human protection in matters pertaining to religion, it is because there is a belief in their hearts that the Lord is not with them. If there was Bible evidence of the sacredness of Sunday, would its friends ask for a human law in its favor? Never. God has intrusted his truth to men, for them to disseminate, but he has never authorized them to use carnal weapons in its behalf. The commission is to teach all nations; but it is not said that the disciples must force all nations to believe. If anything is really of God, all man has to do is to observe it, and teach it, calling on the Lord for help, and the Spirit of God will convict men of sin.SITI February 15, 1883, page 75.2

    If the advocates of Sunday observance really believe that it is of God, let them teach it with all diligence, asking God to guide them. If it is of God, he will not let it suffer, but will vindicate his truth. But when they ask the aid of politicians, worldly men, these men will help them from worldly considerations, and not as a matter of religion. They will not believe that God is in the movement; but they will identify themselves with it, because they will expect to derive personal advantage from it. And this is the only consideration that will move politicians and men of the world; so that if the movement really were of God, it would be dishonored by such advocacy. God is able to take care of his own truth and people, without the aid of weak and sinful man. E. J. W.SITI February 15, 1883, page 75.3

    “The Sure Word” The Signs of the Times, 9, 7.

    E. J. Waggoner

    “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.” 2 Peter 1:19.SITI February 15, 1883, page 77.1

    The apostle is not comparing one prophecy with another, but he is comparing prophecy with something else. He does not say that we have one word of prophecy that is “more sure” than some other word, but that the word of prophecy is more sure than some other thing. What that other thing is we may learn from the context. In verses 16-18 he speaks of the certainty of Christ’s coming, and the reason why he is so certain in regard to it. He says: “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.” The idea is this: At the transfiguration the apostles saw Christ just as he will appear when he comes in his glory. They also heard the voice of God from Heaven. So when they declared the coming of Christ, they did it on the evidence of both their eyes and their ears. This is accounted the best possible evidence; but Peter says that there is something that is more sure than this. What is it? It is the “sure word of prophecy.” It is possible that a person’s eyes or ears might deceive him, but there is no possibility of doubt in regard to the prophecy. And why not? Because it did not come “by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” The prophecy, therefore, is as reliable as God himself. There are very few things in this life upon which we can depend implicitly; how gladly, then, we ought to receive this sure word, and how eagerly we ought to search it.SITI February 15, 1883, page 77.2

    THE OBJECT OF PROPHECY

    As noted by Peter, the object of the sure word of prophecy is that we may be more certain in regard to Christ’s coming, for that is the grand event to which all prophecy points. Christ’s first advent was the basis of many prophecies, and it was the most momentous event since the creation of the world. Upon that coming the redemption of the whole human race depended; but even that with its attendant sacrifice would be lost to us if Christ were not to come the second time. Christ came and died that man might be redeemed, to reign with him forever; but those whom he has purchased cannot be with him unless, according to his promise, he comes again to redeem them to himself. There is no other way by which we can go to Heaven. So the redemption of the race depends fully as much upon Christ’s second coming as upon the first. It is no wonder, then, that so much prophecy has been given in regard to so important an event. We will examine a little of it, and we shall see that the coming of our Lord is not so vague and indefinite a matter as some would have us believe.SITI February 15, 1883, page 77.3

    NEBUCHADNEZZAR’S DREAM

    This dream, related in the second chapter of Daniel, is familiar to every reader of the Bible. The circumstances attending it are such as would attract the attention of one who was reading merely for pleasure, for they are highly interesting. But our interest in the narrative is increased a thousand-fold when we learn the object and interpretation of the dream. The object of the dream is told in few words. Daniel said to the king, “There is a God in Heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days.” Then it is for us far more than for Nebuchadnezzar.SITI February 15, 1883, page 77.4

    The dream was as follows: A great image, bright in appearance and terrible in form, appeared to the king. Its head was of fine gold, its breast and arms and its feet of mingled clay and iron. While the king looked upon this image, a stone was cut out of the mountain without the aid of human hands. This stone smote the image upon the feet, and instantly the whole image was reduced to fine powder, and was blown away; but the stone immediately became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.SITI February 15, 1883, page 77.5

    The interpretation of the dream occupies but little more space. Daniel, after reminding the king that God has given him universal dominion, tells him that his kingdom is symbolized by the head of gold. The other three divisions of the image, the silver, the brass, and the iron, symbolize three other universal empires. The last one of these is to be divided into ten parts, as is indicated by the ten toes of the image, which shall be distinct from each other. And now comes the closing scene: “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.” Daniel 2:44, 45.SITI February 15, 1883, page 77.6

    This dream with its interpretation was not given that men might be informed in regard to earthly kingdoms, but for the sole purpose of pointing out the fifth universal kingdom. Then we may know something in regard to the time of its setting up. Let us follow the connection. Babylon was conquered by the Medes and Persians, B.C. 538. Medo-Persia, then, was the empire symbolized by the breast and arms of silver. The Persian Empire in its turn gave away to the Greeks. This took place B.C. 321. Here we have three of the four kingdoms; and since there were to be but four universal, earthly monarchies, the fourth cannot be difficult to locate. There is no doubt but that Rome was symbolized by the iron part of the image. It was at the height of its power at the first advent of Christ, having fully completed the conquest of Greece half a century before. There is no disputing the fact that it was universal in its dominion, and Scripture proof of the fact is found in Luke 2:1. Now we have the four universal empires before us. Where shall we look for the setting up of the fifth. In the days of Christ? No; because Rome was then undivided. It could not be set up until the division of that empire into its ten parts, which was completed A.D. 457. The coming of Christ, and the setting up of his everlasting kingdom, is the next thing brought to our view. And this is in reality the next thing to be accomplished. Certain things must be done by powers that now exist, but when earthly governments again fall, their place will be taken by Christ’s kingdom. Other prophecies corroborative of this, and more minute in detail, will be considered next week.SITI February 15, 1883, page 77.7

    Now is not this a sure word of prophecy? Kingdoms have risen and fallen just as predicted by the prophet. He said that the ten divisions of the Roman Empire would seek to consolidate their power, but would be unsuccessful, and so it has been. Every attempt to unite the nations of Europe has ended in failure. And if the past has been fulfilled to the letter, we have the assurance that that which yet remains will as surely be fulfilled. Inspiration did not point out the length of time that these earthly kingdoms should exist, and it has not told when the heavenly kingdom will be set up, but we know it cannot be far distant. The divided state of the image has continued for 1,400 years, much longer than any other division. Other prophecies show more definitely that the end is very near. We learn from this that God’s kingdom is as much a reality as any earthly kingdom, and that those whose interest is in earthly things can have no part in it. Are we fitting ourselves for citizenship in that glorious, everlasting kingdom? E. J. W.SITI February 15, 1883, page 77.8

    “Staying Away from Sabbath-School” The Signs of the Times, 9, 7.

    E. J. Waggoner

    It is often the case that we hear persons give as a reason for not coming to Sabbath-school, “I didn’t have my lesson.” But this answer should not be dignified with the title of reason, for it is really a very poor excuse. It shows that the individual offering it does not realize the object of the school. We do not go to Sabbath-school to “show-off” our proficiency, as some people go to church to exhibit their fine clothes. We go to Sabbath-school in order to learn. We are all of us ignorant, to a greater or less degree, of the truths contained in the Bible; we go to the Sabbath-school that we may become enlightened. To stay away from the school because we are ignorant, is as foolish as it would be to stay away from dinner because we are hungry. If we do not know the lesson, that is a great reason why we should attend the school. If it were possible for us to be perfectly familiar with the lesson, so that we could learn nothing more, there would be no special reason for us to attend, except for the sake of our example; we would not lose so much personally by staying away, but our absence might influence others to stay away also. But when we do not understand the lesson, and stay away, we have not only our example on the wrong side, but we suffer great loss ourselves.SITI February 15, 1883, page 77.9

    It may be asked, “If the Sabbath-school is simply the place to learn, what is the use of studying the lesson at all?” Just this: The more we know of anything, the more we are able to learn, and the better able are we to appreciate what others have learned. If we have learned the lesson as well as we can by ourselves, we shall be in the best condition to learn from others; we will have an interest in what they say. If we know nothing of the lesson, we may learn but very little in regard to it during the Sabbath-school hour; but that little is vastly more than we should learn if we did not hear the recitation at all.SITI February 15, 1883, page 77.10

    Let every Sabbath-school scholar, then, whether young or old, resolve that he will attend every Sabbath, both for the good which he may do, and for that which he may receive. E. J. W.SITI February 15, 1883, page 77.11

    “Thoughts on the Twelfth Chapter of Hebrews” The Signs of the Times, 9, 7.

    E. J. Waggoner

    “Wherefore seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.”SITI February 15, 1883, page 79.1

    The word “witnesses,” in this text, conveys to many a wrong idea, or rather, many persons give it a meaning which does not belong to it in this place. A witness is one who testifies in a cause, from personal knowledge, and in this sense it is used here. This chapter is a continuation of the argument on faith, and the cloud or multitude of witnesses who are here spoken of, are the worthies whose deeds are recorded in chapter eleven. They are not “witnesses” in the sense that they are looking on to see us run the race, for all of them except Enoch died. Now of the dead it is said that “they know not anything,” Ecclesiastes 9:5; that in the day of their death “their thoughts perished.” Psalm 146:4; and that they are not conscious of the elevation or disgrace of even their dearest relatives. Job 14:21. It is certain, then, that those of whom the apostle says that they “all died in faith,” are not cognizant of any thing that is now taking place on this earth. How then are they “witnesses”? They have all run the race, and obtained great victories through faith; and by means of the sacred record their lives bear witness to the power of a firm, abiding faith. Of Abel it is said that “he being dead yet speaketh.” So likewise all these worthies are standing by to cheer us on by their testimony as to the possibility of making the race a success.SITI February 15, 1883, page 79.2

    One stanza of an excellent hymn that is based on this passage, is ruined because the writer of the hymn mistook the meaning of the word “witnesses.” The stanza is this:-SITI February 15, 1883, page 79.3

    “A cloud of witnesses around,
    Hold thee in full survey;
    Forget the steps already tried,
    And onward urge thy way.”
    SITI February 15, 1883, page 79.4

    But this is not true. These witnesses do not hold us in survey. They know nothing of our existence. In short, they know nothing at all, because they are dead.SITI February 15, 1883, page 79.5

    “Seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses.” The position of a small word in a sentence may make a great deal of difference. The word “also” is here out of its proper place. The text should read thus: “Wherefore seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight,” etc. It is not true, as implied in the common version, that those in ancient times were compassed about with witnesses. The Bible was not written in their day, and they had no precedent for their faith. Noah had no example of those who had trusted in God before his time, and had been preserved. He had simply the word of God. There had been no rain on the earth, and if the philosophers of his day were like those of the present time, they doubtless said that such a thing was contrary to nature. Nevertheless he believed and obeyed the word of the Lord, and by so doing he “condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.”SITI February 15, 1883, page 79.6

    Abraham was called out from heathen surroundings, and “went out, not knowing whither he went.” He had not before him a long list of persons who had tested the promises of God, and found them sure. So far as we know he had never been associated with any one who worshiped the true God. Still he had evidence enough. He had “two immutable things,” the promise and the oath of God. But we have in addition to these a great array of men “subject to like passions as we are,” who gained glorious victory through faith in God. Since they accomplished such great victories through faith, let us be encouraged to do likewise. If they, who had so much less light and encouragement than we have, preserved thus manfully, what patience and faith and zeal ought we not to exhibit!SITI February 15, 1883, page 79.7

    The apostle declares that “whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have a whole.” Romans 15:4. Now there is to us abundant ground of hope in the lives of the patriarchs. We seldom take all the encouragement from the record of their lives that we ought. We are apt to imagine that those men were composed of different stuff from what men are now, that there was something peculiar to their natures which gave them favor with God. But this is not so. Some sin or weakness appears in the life of nearly every one. Human nature was the same in their day that it is now. Wherein, then, was their strength? Simply in this: They were able to take God at his word. It is written, “Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness.” All the difference between them and us is that they believed implicitly, while we doubt. But it is just as easy for us to believe as it was for them; otherwise there would be no propriety in giving them as our example. Indeed it ought to be easier for us, since we have their lives as assurance that God is “a rewarder of them that diligently see him.” If human nature is the same now that it was then, we have the assurance that God is the same also, and is just as ready to give us his aid in transforming ourselves that we may be made partakers of the divine nature. The lives of these worthies, and the exhortation of the apostle, were not written for nothing. Will we give them the attention that they deserve? E. J. W.SITI February 15, 1883, page 79.8

    (To be Continued.)

    “The Obedience of Saul” The Signs of the Times, 9, 7.

    E. J. Waggoner

    When Saul was sent to execute God’s judgment against the Amalekites, the command given him was “Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” 1 Samuel 15:3. This order was explicit enough certainly, and could not be misunderstood. All will agree that disobedience to such a plain command could proceed from nothing else but willfulness. Saul set out upon his mission, and smote the Amalekites, gaining a great victory. He did not, however, follow strictly the directions given him, for we read. “But Saul and the people spared and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them; but everything that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.” Did Saul obey orders? There can be but one answer: He went directly contrary to them. Should a modern officer obey the orders of his superior no better than Saul, he would immediately be court-marshaled and shot.SITI February 15, 1883, page 80.1

    But how did Saul excuse himself for such conduct? Did he shrink from meeting the man of God, and say that the order could not be executed? No, he came boldly forward and said, “Blessed be thou of the Lord; I have performed the word of the Lord.” What impudent assurance! No wonder the prophet asked in astonishment, “What meaneth this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” Saul had his reply ready, and said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.”SITI February 15, 1883, page 80.2

    From these answers of Saul’s it appears that he really thought that he had obeyed the Lord. He doubtless reasoned thus: “The Lord wants all the sheep and oxen destroyed; but the end will be accomplished just as well if we offer them a sacrifice, as it would if we should slaughter them where they are. By saving them for sacrifice we can fulfill the command of the Lord, and at the same time offer him acceptable worship.” Now it is very evident that such reasoning is not reasoning, but sophistry. If the Lord had desired that those and all should be offered in sacrifice, he would have said so; and although the Lord delights in sacrifice, he cannot accept that which is made at the expense of obedience to his commandments. Saul’s course shows that he was blinded by self-will.SITI February 15, 1883, page 80.3

    There is a great deal obedience at the present time of the same nature as this that we have just considered. In a conversation which we once had with a lady in regard to the Sabbath, she admitted that the seventh day is the Sabbath, just as the commandment says, and that it has never changed by divine authority; “but,” said she, “we keep the first day of the week in honor of Christ; and the Father has such great love for the Son that anything done in his honor will be accepted as obedience.” Just think of it. The Father and the Son are one; yet God will overlook this obedience to his plainest commandment, if the person declares it to be his intention to honor the Son. Has Christ commanded the observance of the first day? No. Never. Has either one ever said that such observance would honor Christ? Such a thing was never even intimated. Has not God commanded men to keep the seventh day? Yes; and in the same commandment he has told them to work on six days. And Christ was one with the Father before the worlds were made, and was associated with him in that work; hence the commandments of the Father are also those of the Son. Then how can anybody possessing reasoned imagine that breaking the Sabbath and observing Sunday, is an act of honor either to the Father or to the Son? This question is beyond our power to answer.SITI February 15, 1883, page 80.4

    Under this same head comes Joseph Cook’s reason (?) for keeping Sunday. He once wrote an article for the Christian Union on “The Sunday Question,” which begun thus:-SITI February 15, 1883, page 80.5

    “If it be asked what is the biblical authority for the observance of Sunday, my reply must be that the sermon on the mount, in my opinion, recognizes the moral spirit of the whole decalogue. The sermon on the Mount affirms that not one jot or tittle of the law shall pass away till all be fulfilled. That does not mean the ceremonial law, but the two great tables of the older dispensation. No one pretends that the law in the decalogue against theft is repealed by the New Testament, nor that against adultery.”SITI February 15, 1883, page 80.6

    Truly that is a reason worthy of Saul himself. “We keep Sunday, because the law enjoining the observance of the seventh day is still in force!” This reasoning goes beyond Saul, for he intended to obey the Lord, at some future time, and in his own way; but Mr. Cook intends to obey the Lord in his own way, which is by direct disobedience.SITI February 15, 1883, page 80.7

    Let us use this reasoning in the case of the other commandment. The first commandment says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Now why may not the heathen who has professed to be converted to Christianity say, “If it be asked why I worship idols, my reply must be that the commandments are recognized by the New Testament as of full force. The spirit of that law enjoins worship, but since the object of worship is not specified, we are at liberty to worship what we please.” Is there a sin common to mankind that may not be justified by such reasoning?SITI February 15, 1883, page 80.8

    Or he might say, The Lord takes great pleasure in the things that he has made. When he had to finish the work of creation, he pronounced it very good; and the psalmist says: “The works of the Lord are great;” “His work is honorable and glorious;” “He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered.” Now, reasoning as in the first instance, the heathen might say, “It is true that the Lord has commanded us to worship him; but I worship the sun and moon in honor of God’s creation; and God thinks so much of his works that he will accept the sun-worship as obedience to himself.” Why should the heathen be condemned for breaking one commandment and the Christians be justified for breaking another, for the same reason?SITI February 15, 1883, page 80.9

    Do men think that they can deceive the Lord by such sophistry, and cause him to think that disobedience is obedience? Do they imagine that they will convert the Lord to their way of thinking? or that he will withhold punishment out of respect to their persons? If they do, let them consider the case of Saul, and its consequences, and take warning. E. J. W.SITI February 15, 1883, page 80.10

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