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    June 7, 1883

    “The Sabbath-School. Acts 8th Chapter” The Signs of the Times, 9, 22.

    E. J. Waggoner

    Lesson for the Pacific Coast-June 16. Acts 8th Chapter.
    Notes on the Lesson.

    “And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem.” The Revised Version has it, “And on that day,” indicating that the martyrdom of Stephen was only the beginning of a general persecution. Like wild beasts, one taste of blood made the bigoted Jews clamorous for more. In fact, the language of the sacred historian implies the comparison of the maddened persecutors to wild beasts. Thus, at the close of Stephen’s speech they “gnashed on him with their teeth,” fit language to be applied to a wolf or a tiger. Again, in verse 3 it is said that Saul “made havoc of the church.” Of this, Farrar says: “Literally, ‘he was ravaging’-the church. No stronger metaphor could well have been used. It occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, but in the Septuagint, and in classical Greek, is applied to the wild boars which uproot a vineyard. Not content with the visitation of the synagogue, he got the authority for an inquisitorial visit from house to house, and even from the sacred retirement of the Christian home he dragged not only men, but women, to judgment and to prison. So thorough was his search, and so deadly were its effects, that, in referring to it, the Christians of Damascus can only speak of Saul as “he that devastated in Jerusalem them that call on this name,” using the strong word which is strictly applicable to an invading army which scathes a conquered country with fire and sword.”SITI June 7, 1883, page 257.1

    On account of this persecution the believers at Jerusalem “were scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria.” In thus scattering they only obeyed the injunction of the Master, “But when they persecute you in this city, flee into another.” Their religious principles would not allow them to resist, and nothing would be gained for the cause of God if they should remain and submit to a wholesale massacre. We can even see the hand of Providence in allowing this persecution, for it was the means of spreading the truth throughout all the region. We have seen that the new converts were “of one heart and of one soul;” they loved one another’s society, and since they were necessarily shut off in a great measure from outside associations, there was danger that they would become clannish, and settle down, content with having received the truth. But now they were driven out, and were given a fresh opportunity to prove the sincerity of their conversion by “preaching the word.” Their persecutions did not quench their love of the truth. The wicked Jews thought to root out the heated religion of Jesus, but instead of that they caused the seed to be sown broadcast. Thus they proved that man “can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.”SITI June 7, 1883, page 257.2

    They were all scattered, “except the apostles.” It seems that God had worked for them still in Jerusalem. Christ had instructed them that “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations beginning at Jerusalem,” and they were not in haste to leave the city. We cannot tell why they stayed, or what they did, but we may be sure that they followed the leading of the Spirit of God.SITI June 7, 1883, page 257.3

    “Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ unto them.” This Philip was one of the “seven” spoken of in chapter 6. In Acts 21:8 he is further distinguished as “Philip the evangelist.” Some may query, how we know that the Philip who preached in Samaria, and who baptized the eunuch, was Philip the evangelist, and not Philip the apostle. The answer is easy: The apostles all remained in Jerusalem, many had embraced the truth at Samaria, and then they sent unto them Peter and John. Consequently, Philip the apostle must have also remained at Jerusalem.SITI June 7, 1883, page 257.4

    “Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God they sent unto them Peter and John.”-This verse alone disproves the Catholic assumption that Peter occupied the position of pope, taking the place of Christ as head of the church. Instead of that, he was subject to the decisions of the rest, going wherever the majority thought best. Nowhere in the Bible do we find any intimation that any one occupied a higher rank than the rest. The apostles did not even presume to dictate to the body of the church, as shown in chapter 5. And in this they simply acted in accordance with their own teaching, especially that of Peter himself, to take the oversight of the flock, not “as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock,” and to “be subject one to another.” 1 Peter 5:1-5.SITI June 7, 1883, page 257.5

    The question is often asked, Is baptism a saving ordinance? If it is meant by this, Will baptism suffice to save a person, if he does nothing else? the answer must be, No. But if it is desired to know if baptism is necessary, the reply must be, Yes. If it were not necessary, it would not have been commanded. When the people inquired of the apostles, “What shall we do?” The answer was, “Repent, and be baptized.” Christ said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” And from Philip’s preaching to the eunuch we learn that we cannot preached Christ without teaching baptism. The record simply says that Philip began at the 53rd of Isaiah where the eunuch was reading, “and preached unto him Jesus.” That was all; yet as they went on their way, the eunuch cried out, “See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?”SITI June 7, 1883, page 257.6

    The chapter which the eunuch was reading foretells in a vivid manner the trial and death of Jesus. “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted.” “He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter.” There is a force in this expression, for Christ was the antitypical lamb. “And he made his grave with the wicked.” This shows the burial of Christ; and the following verses show a resurrection, and the final joy of Christ as he sees those who have been redeemed by his blood. From this we can get an idea of what kind of an act the eunuch had in mind when he asked to be baptized. It must have been something that would have been suggested by the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. But sprinkling bears no resemblance whatever to these things. And it would have required a great deal of ingenuity on the part of Philip to so preach Christ that sprinkling would be naturally suggested. But he could very easily show how we show faith in Christ, by being “buried with him in baptism,” “planted” “in the likeness of his death.”SITI June 7, 1883, page 257.7

    For this kind of baptism, water was needed, not a few drops merely, but “much water.” John 3:23. But for what is popularly known as baptism, only a few drops are required. In fact, we have seen the ceremony performed where it could not with any sort of propriety have been call sprinkling, since scarcely a drop of water was used; the administrator merely put his finger in a bowl that was supposed to contain water, and then touched the candidate’s forehead. But the eunuch would have had an abundance of water with him for drinking, sufficient for any such performance, or even for veritable sprinkling, and it would not have been necessary for them to get out of the chariot.SITI June 7, 1883, page 257.8

    “But this was a desert place, and there could not have been enough water there for immersion,” it is sometimes objected. The word ereemos translated desert, means a wilderness, an uninhabited place, and not necessarily a barren country. An instance of its use is found in Matthew 14:13-19. The multitude were there with Jesus, and in a “desert place,” yet they were commanded to “sit down on the grass,” which proves that it was not a barren, sandy desert. As for the place in question, travelers say that on any route which they might have taken from Jerusalem to Gaza, there was an abundance of water.SITI June 7, 1883, page 257.9

    One thought in connection with Philip’s sermon to the eunuch should be impressed on the mind of every one who labors in the cause of God. And that is that it is just as important to preach to small congregations as to large ones. If a minister preaches to a large congregation, and only one is finally converted, he has accomplished no more than if he had preached to that one alone. Here was Philip, a man “full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom,” capable of preaching to a “city congregation,” yet he was sent off to preach to one man; and he went out into the wilderness without any hesitation, not knowing that he would find even that one man. But how great were the consequences. The eunuch “went on his way rejoicing” in the new light that he had received, and, like the other disciples, he must have preached the word to those whom he met. And thus the Ethiopians heard the truth. It might have been more gratifying to Philip’s personal pride, if he had had any, to be sent on a mission to Ethiopia, but the result was accomplished by this trip to the desert. Two of Christ’s most instructive servants were preached to an audience of a single individual.SITI June 7, 1883, page 257.10

    From the unenlightened Ethiopian, we may learn a lesson of diligence in the study of the word of God. He was a proselyte to the Jewish religion, and had been to worship in the place to which all Jews looked as the dwelling-place of God,-the temple at Jerusalem. The religion which he had adopted was a long step in advance of the superstition of his native country, still he felt that he was only a learner. He was searching the Scriptures, although they conveyed no meaning to his mind. But the promise is sure, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine,” and Philip was sent to instruct him. But how many of us are there who would have been occupied as he was?How many are there who think to take the Bible with them on a journey, to read by the way? Yet this is what we are commanded to do. If the eunuch had not been reading the Bible, Philip would probably not have been sent to instruct him. Who can tell how many opportunities for receiving great light we may have missed, because we were not attentively spreading the word as we should. The Lord may not send any evangelist to our assistance, as he did to the eunuch, but his spirit is ever ready to enlighten us. What an encouragement this is for us to read even those portions of the Bible that are beyond our comprehension. E. J. W.SITI June 7, 1883, page 257.11

    “The Bible Displaced by Tradition” The Signs of the Times, 9, 22.

    E. J. Waggoner

    In an editorial in the Christian at Work, a few weeks ago, there were some admissions in regard to the Sabbath that are too good to be passed by unnoticed. The article contrasts the former times with the present, claiming that precepts and customs that were good for people three thousand years ago are entirely out of place in this enlightened age. It deprecates the basing of moral duties to-day upon commands ever given when the world was in its infancy. Among other illustrations it uses the following:-SITI June 7, 1883, page 259.1

    “Even our higher moralists have made failures in this direction. Thus some plant the observance of the Sabbath [Sunday] squarely on the fourth commandment, which was an explicit injunction to observe Saturday, and no other day, as ‘a holy day unto the Lord.’”SITI June 7, 1883, page 259.2

    Very good; that is what we have stoutly maintained, notwithstanding the fact that many religious teachers have labored hard to prove that the fourth commandment enjoins the observance of Sunday, or of any day which convenience may suggest. We are glad to have this frank expression of opinion from so able and influential a journal as the Christian at Work. Not that it adds anything to our faith, or tends to confirm us in our belief. When the Bible speaks as plainly on any point as it does on the observance of the seventh day of the week, we do not need anything additional. But the statement just quoted is good place against the assertions of those who claim to keep Sunday in obedience to the fourth commandment. A house divided against itself cannot stand; and when Sunday-keepers take such diametrically opposite positions in support of their pet institution, it is a pretty good indication that the foundations of that institution are very shaky.SITI June 7, 1883, page 259.3

    We leave those who believe in keeping Sunday, and at the same time believe the whole of the moral law is binding upon all men, to settle this question with the Christian at Work, while we pass on to another point, which clashes with the teachings of another class of professors. Some professed Christians claim that God has yielded to the wishes of wicked men so far as to abolish his holy law, and that none of it is now binding. They care not what the commandment teaches, since they do not believe that it is in force. They claim to follow the apostles. Here is something that will be of interest to such persons:-SITI June 7, 1883, page 259.4

    “So some have tried to build the observance of Sunday upon apostolic command, or as the apostles gave no command on the matter at all.”SITI June 7, 1883, page 259.5

    Good again; we could not tell it any straighter ourself. We are glad also of this frank admission; it always does us good to find something in religious journals with which we can agree. But right here it may occur to some that the Sunday seems to be left out entirely. If not commanded in either the Old Testament or the New, where shall we find authority for its observance? The Christian at Work is equal to the occasion, and continues:-SITI June 7, 1883, page 259.6

    “In the meantime, the fact that Sunday observance rests upon the custom of the early church, handed down through all the centuries-and which ought to be sufficient for every Christian-is lost sight of.”SITI June 7, 1883, page 259.7

    Where else, to be sure, should we look for authority for Sunday observance but to tradition, since the Bible is silent concerning it? We admire the honesty of those who do not attempt to make the Bible responsible for that which it condemns, but we are not satisfied with the reasons offered; for,SITI June 7, 1883, page 259.8

    1. How do we know that it was the custom of the early church to observe Sunday, since the Bible is silent concerning it? There was no church before the one which was the result of the apostles’ preaching; but the Bible gives us an account of that, and says nothing about Sunday observance, as the C. at W. admits; so, according to its own admission, the earliest church did not keep Sunday.SITI June 7, 1883, page 259.9

    2. And further, Allowing that the early Christians did keep Sunday, where did they get their authority? Not from the commandment of God, nor from that of the apostles. They must have devised it in their own heart. But why must we follow their example? Where do we learn that they were set as examples for us? If they could do as they please, why may not we? Why should we follow the example of the early Christians who kept Sunday, any more than that of the earliest Christians, who kept the Sabbath of the Lord?SITI June 7, 1883, page 259.10

    3. And, once more, If we are not to follow the plain teaching of the fourth commandment, why need we be so strict about obeying any of the other nine? Why may we not interpret any of them in as liberal a manner, or ignore them altogether, and do as we please in everything. If a minister of the gospel should blaspheme, or a deacon should systematically steal money from the church treasury, or a whole church should be guilty of violation of the seventh commandment, the Christian at Work would be one of the first to denounce such acts as sinful in the extreme; yet it will openly advise its readers to ignore the fourth commandment entirely. What is the reason? Why is not the fourth commandment as sacred as the third, the seventh, for the eighth? Let those answer who can.SITI June 7, 1883, page 259.11

    But we must notice one more admission. Here it is:-SITI June 7, 1883, page 259.12

    “The truth is, so soon as we appeal to the litera scripta of the Bible, the Sabbatarians have the best of the argument.”SITI June 7, 1883, page 259.13

    We would like to have our good Presbyterian and Methodist and Baptist friends read that sentence several times, and then ask themselves the question, Shall we accept the Bible as our rule of faith and practice, or not? The Protestant rule is, “The Bible, and the Bible alone.” Shall we change this, or shall we cease to call ourselves Protestants? If we retain only so much of the Bible as it suits our ideas, why keep any of it? Are the lives of mortal men to be taken as a standard by which to test the Bible, or is the Bible the rule by which men’s actions are to be measured? If the latter, then it would seem absolutely necessary for us to follow the literal reading of the Scriptures.SITI June 7, 1883, page 259.14

    The Christian at Work is professedly a Christian paper. Its proprietors and editors profess to be Christian men. It is run in the interest of a Christian denomination. Now where do they get their Christianity? Is it from the Koran, the Book of Mormon, or the daily newspaper? No, from the Bible. The Bible is the only place where Christianity is defined. Then what kind of Christianity will we have if we swing loose from the book? No Christianity at all. If we are not to take the litera scripta of the Bible in regard to the Sabbath, why should we take it in regard to the death and resurrection of Christ? May it not be that the passages that speak of those events do not mean what they say, or if they mean what they say, are of no consequence? But to claim that would be infidelity, says one. Ah! would it? Then pray tell what it is to say that the commandments of God may be set aside at pleasure?SITI June 7, 1883, page 259.15

    But we believe the Bible, and propose to take it just as it reads. Even the Christian at Work will hardly say that is not safe to follow Bible teachings strictly. The Bible will not lead us astray. As long as we stick to the Bible we are on the safe side. But when we leave it, we are adrift. We do not know where to go. We do not know of any man who is not liable to sin, so we dare not follow the example of men. We dare not follow the impulses of our own heart, for “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” And besides, we read that God will bring into Judgment, those who walked in the ways of their own heart, and in the sight of their own eyes. Ecclesiastes 11:9. And so we say again that we shall stick to the Bible, fully believing that man shall live by “every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” E. J. W.SITI June 7, 1883, page 259.16

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