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    August 30, 1883

    “The Sabbath-School. Acts 15:1-32” The Signs of the Times, 9, 33.

    E. J. Waggoner

    Lesson for Pacific Coast.-Sept. 8. Acts 15:1-32.
    NOTES ON THE LESSON.

    It is doubtful if there is any chapter in the Bible that has been the subject of more controversy, among a certain class, than the 15th chapter of Acts. By many it is considered as proving conclusively that the Sabbath of the fourth commandment is not binding on Christians. Some may ask in surprise what warrant this chapter gives for such a conclusion, since the subject of the Sabbath is not discussed, and is only mentioned incidentally. The reply is that four things were enjoined upon the new converts as “necessary,” verse 28, and the Sabbath not being one of them, it is therefore not to be observed. We have stated the case fairly, that all may judge of its soundness when contrasted with the truth on the matter.SITI August 30, 1883, page 389.1

    And first, we ask, Who are they that bring this objection against the seventh-day Sabbath? Are they infidels, or those who do not believe that men should observe any day as a rest-day? Not as a rule. They are usually those who keep the first day of the week, a large part of whom claim Scripture authority for such a practice. Why, then, can they not see that if the seventh-day Sabbath is not binding, because of the silence of this council in regard to it, the Sunday is in an equally bad light, for it is not hinted at as one of those “necessary things”? We have never been able to explain this inconsistency except on the ground that Sunday advocates seem to realize that consistency is incompatible with an active warfare against the Sabbath of the Lord. We conclude, therefore, that people do not really believe that this chapter affords any evidence against Sabbath keeping. “Anything to beat,” the “Saturday-Sabbath,” is the idea; for having once put that out of sight, habit, early training, and public opinion, will lead people naturally enough to keep Sunday, in form, at least.SITI August 30, 1883, page 389.2

    Another point may be noticed here, which will show the short-sightedness of those who urge the decision of this council as a reason for not keeping the Lord’s Sabbath. The apostolic letter to the converts from among the Gentiles closes thus: “For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well.” It will be seen that no mention is here made of idolatry, of profanity, of disobedience to parents, of murder, nor of theft. Must we therefore conclude that these converts were granted license to commit all these sins? Is this the liberty of the gospel, to which they were admitted? However much anyone despises the law of God, he cannot admit for a moment that the apostles would sanction the commission of any of the sins above enumerated. Then may we not also conclude that they would not sanction the violation of any part of the law, since it all is of equal authority? See Matthew 5:17-20; James 2:8-12.SITI August 30, 1883, page 389.3

    Our readers have doubtless by this time concluded that the law of God-the ten commandments-could not have been the subject of discussion; and that is exactly the truth. From verses 1 and 5 we learn that certain issues troubled the churches that had been raised up among the Gentiles, teaching the members that they must be circumcised and keep “the law of Moses,” if they would be saved. It was to settle this matter that this council was called. Both Scott and Barnes plainly state that the “Jewish ceremonies,’ for the “ceremonial law” was the subject of controversy.SITI August 30, 1883, page 389.4

    The speech of Peter proves that the perpetuity of the moral law was not called in question. He said that God “put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.” Purifying their hearts from what? From sin, of course. And what is sin? “Sin is the transgression of the law.” 1 John 3:4. But from what sins are they purified by this faith? Paul answers, in Romans 3:23-25: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.” Christ’s blood purifies from past sins, but does not grant indulgences for future sin. Peter, whose speech we are considering, spoke in another place on this wise: “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.” 1 Peter 1:22. The law of God is the truth, Psalm 119:114; John 17:17. We learn, then, that having been purged from past sins by the blood of Christ, we are, by the aid of the Spirit, to keep ourselves pure for the future by obeying the law of God. This is the testimony of those apostles who took part in this famous council. And further, the very fact that we are purified by faith, proves the perpetuity of the law of God; as Paul says, “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid; yea, we established the law.” Romans 3:31. That is, the fact that we can get rid of sin in no other way but by the death of Christ, shows that the claims of the law of God cannot be updated in the least; for if it were possible to remit the claims of that law, that act would free mankind from sin, and make it unnecessary for Christ to die.SITI August 30, 1883, page 389.5

    “Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” Verse 10. What was this yoke? The ceremonial law. The testimony of learned men has much weight with some, so we quote two comments on this verse:-SITI August 30, 1883, page 389.6

    “This did not relate merely to circumcision, but to the whole ceremonial law; which, though proper and useful for the time, required so many distinctions, burdensome purifications, expensive sacrifices, long journeys, and other things of a similar nature, that it was a very uneasy yoke, in every age, even to the inhabitants of the promised land, and still more to those Jews who had resided in other countries.”-Scott.SITI August 30, 1883, page 389.7

    “This does not refer to the moral law; that was of eternal obligation; but to the ritual law, which, through the multitude of its sacrifices, ordinances, etc., was exceedingly burdensome to the Jewish people.”-Clarke.SITI August 30, 1883, page 389.8

    But we have the testimony of those apostles who took part in this discussion, that by this “yoke” they did not mean the moral law. Thus John says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous.” 1 John 5:3. James says, “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” James 1:25. See also chap. 2:8-12. A “law of liberty” is very different from a yoke of bondage. And Paul says, “Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man.” Romans 7:12, 22. These testimonies should be sufficient to settle this matter.SITI August 30, 1883, page 389.9

    It is asked “Why was a positive sin, the violation of the seventh commandment, included among the prohibited things, and no other sin?” We reply that none of the things prohibited pertained to the ceremonial law. They were all “necessary things,” but the ceremonial law was not necessary. The partaking of meats offered to idols, if not in itself an evil, had the appearance of evil, which is always to be avoided. It would be a cause of stumbling to many, and more than all would, on account of the associations, be a stepping-stone to idolatry. The eating of blood was forbidden to Noah, for both physical and moral reasons, and is as much wrong now as it ever was. Dr. Clarke enters into an extended argument to prove this point, but we have not the space. The same argument would exclude things strangled. As to fornication, so far was it from being accounted wrong by the Gentiles that it formed a part of their heathen worship, and was considered a virtue rather than a crime. So common was it that the converts from the Gentiles would not be apt to think of it as a violation of the law of God; hence they needed special warning on this point. Abstinence from these things which were so common among the Gentiles would separate them in a great measure from their old associations, and prevent their lapsing into idolatry. The law of God, in general, they would keep as a matter of course, as a necessary part of their Christian profession.SITI August 30, 1883, page 389.10

    “For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath-day.” Verse 21. This mention of the Sabbath by James, although incidental, is conclusive as showing which day was regarded by him as the true Sabbath. The day on which the Jews read the law in the synagogues is spoken of as the Sabbath. That day, as every one admits, was what is now called Saturday. But James further says that the law was read every Sabbath-day; and since the Jews had only one regular day-the seventh day-for worship and the reading of the law, it necessarily follows that James knew of no other Sabbath than the seventh-day of the week. And this statement, let it be remembered, was made in a Christian assembly, composed of apostles and elders, twenty years after the ascension of Christ. If the first day of the week is the Sabbath of the Christian dispensation, is it not strange that none of this assembly had learned of it during those twenty years? E. J. W.SITI August 30, 1883, page 389.11

    “The Honor Due to God. No. 5” The Signs of the Times, 9, 33.

    E. J. Waggoner

    The question sometimes arises, “Who should pay tithes and make offerings?” As to the first part, the answer is simple: Every one should pay tithe who has any tithe to pay. If a person’s income is small, of course his tithe will be correspondingly small; and should there be a person with absolutely no income, dependent entirely upon charity for subsistence, of course he would have no tithe to pay. But that would not be the case with any one having a reasonable degree of health. We are not speaking now of professed Christians merely; every man is under obligation to pay tithe, whether he makes a profession of religion or not. “The tithe is the Lord’s,” and should invariably be returned to him, no matter in whose hands it may be found. This distinction may be made, however: Worldlings have never confessed that their obligations to God, nor agreed to honor him in the matter of tithes, or otherwise; but Christians profess to honor God, which includes the payment of tithes, and therefore while worldlings are guilty of robbery (Malachi 3:8), Christians who fail to meet their obligations, add to robbery the additional crime of falsehood.SITI August 30, 1883, page 391.1

    The matter of offerings is of course left largely to the individual. For some, an offering of a few cents would involve more sacrifice than the gift of a thousand dollars would for another. Should the man with ample wealth give a hundred dollars without having to make any sacrifice, it would not be so acceptable in the sight of Heaven as would a few dimes from one who had to deprive himself of some necessity in consequence of his gift. “For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.” 2 Corinthians 8:12.SITI August 30, 1883, page 391.2

    But while each individual must be his own judgment as to how much he will give, the obligation to make offerings rests upon all; for the Lord, through the prophet Malachi, accuses his people of robbing him in the matter of offerings; but the withholding of offerings could not be called robbery if the Lord had no claim on us beyond our tithe. There can be no exceptions to the general rule that all should make offerings, for it would seem to be impossible to find a person in more reduced circumstances than was the poor widow mentioned in Mark 12:42. She had only two mites (less than half a cent) in the world, yet she gave, not one-tenth merely, but the whole of it; and we do not read that the Lord condemned her in the least for this act.SITI August 30, 1883, page 391.3

    A common idea is that if a man gives freely he will impoverish himself. The trouble is that men leave God out of their calculations. Dr. Clarke, in his comment on Acts 15:10, includes the payment of tithes, etc., in the ceremonial law-the “yoke of bondage”-and artlessly says: “Had not God, by an especial Providence, rendered both their fields and their flocks very fruitful, they could not have borne so painfully a ritual.” Well, that is just what the Lord promises to do for those who render to him his due. “Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the first-fruits of all thine increase; so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.” Proverbs 3:9, 10. Again he says:-SITI August 30, 1883, page 391.4

    “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 the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts.” Malachi 3:10, 11. It is “the Lord of hosts” that makes this promise; certainly he has the power to fulfill it; and who dare say that he will not keep his word?SITI August 30, 1883, page 391.5

    The wise man said, “There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.” Proverbs 11:24. There can be no doubt but that many who bewail their (in most cases imaginary) inability to assist in the cause of God, owe their pecuniary embarrassment to the fact that they are not willing to make this sacrifice and help with what they have. A notable instance of this is described in the Bible.SITI August 30, 1883, page 391.6

    We learn from the book of Ezra that the people who at the command of Cyrus, went up from Babylon to Jerusalem to build the temple, became discouraged on account of the opposition brought to bear against them, and abandoned the work for several years. Added to this opposition was a severe drought, which cut off their crops, depriving them of even the necessaries of life. Of course under the circumstances they could not be expected to give time and means for the building of the temple, and they very naturally concluded that the time had not come for the Lord’s house to be built. Haggai 1:2; “for,” they doubtless reasoned, “if the Lord wanted his house built now, he would give us the means with which to do it.”SITI August 30, 1883, page 391.7

    “Then came the word of the ord by Haggai the prophet, saying, Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste? Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.” Haggai 1:3-6.SITI August 30, 1883, page 391.8

    Then the Lord gives the cause of this terrible want: “Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the Lord of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house. Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit. And I called for a drought upon the land,” etc. Verses 9-11. Read also chapter 2:11-19.SITI August 30, 1883, page 391.9

    In this instance the people thought that the hard times was a sufficient reason for not building the temple, when the hard times came solely because they had not gone ahead with the work of building. The Lord now promised them that from this time he would bless them, if they would take hold of the work; and to assure them of his ability to give and to withhold prosperity, and also of his right to receive homage, he said, “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts.”SITI August 30, 1883, page 391.10

    The apostle Paul said in regard to the subject of giving, “But this I say, He that soweth sparingly shall reap all so sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall read also bountifully.” 2 Corinthians 9:6. There are many who have proved the truth of this, and who know that it pays to take God into all their calculations, and in all their ways to acknowledge him; for, as Paul continues, “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.” E. J. W.SITI August 30, 1883, page 391.11

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