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1 And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.
Right words give pleasure to God; and right words re-act on the man who utters them, tending to generate right thoughts. But right words are only a part. Without right thoughts, right words are a mere jingle. It was one of God's complaints against Isaiah that while they drew near with their mouth, their heart was far from him (Isaiah xxix. 13).
The "preparation of the heart" is the principal thing. And this is not the work of a day. It is the result of habitual meditation on what may be called the facts of existence -- present and past. The universe speaks of God to reason's ear; and the authentic history of mankind exhibits the revelation of His will in Israel's record. The study of all will make God a fact to the understanding and the heart, and fit a man to pray with sincerity and to receive with liberality the blessing He requests.
Nazareth Revisisted Ch 44
2 And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.
The World's Conquerors
I expect, however, that as there was a remnant in Elijah's day, so there may be "a remnant" among the Gentiles "according to the election of grace"-some honest and good hearts into which the word of the Kingdom shall be understandingly and lovingly received, to the praise, and honour, and glory of God's great name; and to the preparation of the people who shall be accepted of Him at the appearing of Christ in the majesty and power of the Kingdom.
In that great day, the question will not be, whether the doctrine will go down, or whether the people will be willing for Christ to reign universally; that day will be "the Hour of Judgment," when the sentence will go forth, saying, "Those mine enemies who would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay before me." (Luke 19:27.)
This will be the practical settlement of the controversy, in spite of money and democracy, which will enable no man to stand against The Stone. The peoples of all ranks and tongues will be compelled to submit themselves with tribute (Ps. 68:30) to the Kingdom of the Saints, under the terror of fire and sword. This is unavoidable. The past has proved that mankind cannot be brought into subjection to God by testimony and reason; they must therefore be subdued before they can be regenerated and blessed in Abraham and his Seed according to the gospel.
Christ and the Saints ask no favours of the world. The earth is theirs and the fulness thereof; (1 Cor. 3:21, 22;) and at the time appointed, they will take their own, in spite of all the Powers, imperial, regal, priestly, or republican, that now divide their divine royalty and inheritance among them. (Ps. 2:8, 9; Rev. 2:26, 27.)
There is something magnificent in this arrangement-an association of poor and despised people, taken from all the generations of the race, upon the principle of obedience resulting from the belief of the things promised them; that such a people of divinely-approved character, now struggling with adversity, under which they are sustained by the belief that they are the heirs, with Christ, of the earth and world with all their riches, and dying in that hope; that they should be raised from the dead, and that God should say to them, with the Lord Jesus at their head as the Commander-in-chief of their forces, "There is the world before you, which six thousand years ago I promised unto you as the Woman's Seed; the Serpent holds it by his power, which is great; but there are Israel and Judah, my two-edged sword (Zech. 9:13) and weapons of war, (Jer. 1:20,) who under your command shall become strong; for one of them shall chase a thousand Gentiles, and two put ten thousand to flight; (Deut. 32:30;) therefore, go up against the nations, subdue them, and take possession of their glory under the whole heaven. (Dan. 7:18, 22, 27.)
The world is yours; go, conquer for yourselves, and I will give you rest."
Who would not rejoice in tribulation now, with a scriptural assurance of being an approved and recognized associate of such a valiant company as this? What are the honours, and riches, and power, and dominion of the present world, or constitution of things, in comparison of this?
Many have aimed at the conquest of the world, that they might gratify the lusts of their sinflesh; but they have invariably failed. But Christ and the Saints, as commanders of Israel and Judah, will accomplish it for higher and nobler ends-that they may establish righteousness and peace on the ruins of ignorance, superstition, and the despotism of sin; and cause the will of God to be done upon the earth as it is in heaven. This will be a glorious conquest, though certainly a sanguinary one. But that cannot be avoided. The power of sin must be broken; and if men will range themselves under its standards against Him whose mission it is to destroy the works of sin, they must take the consequences. Democracy and millionaires will be but pipe-stems; brittle as clay, and mere dust of the balance in the calculation.
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, April 1854
9 And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
Jesus intended to teach by this that our own receivings at the hands of the Father depend to some extent upon the perseverance of our supplications. ...
13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the holy spirit to them that ask him?
Here is a doctrine of which we should take the fullest advantage. Our mere impressions as natural men are liable to withhold us from it. We are in danger of thinking either that prayer is an ineffective formality, or that, at the least, its efficacy is independent of importunity. The fact is, that as natural men, we know nothing about it, and therefore ought to distrust our feelings on the subject. Jesus knew. As he said, "We speak that we do know."
It is for us to accept the teaching of one who knew the Father's mind in all things. What if some have tried and found nothing for their pains? Are there no conditions? Is there not such a thing as "asking amiss?" (Jas. iv. 3). Has not God said, "To such and such a man will I look?" Is it not written, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me?" Do we not read, "The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous. His ears are open to their cry. But the face of the Lord is set against them that do evil?"
We should reason illogically if we were to conclude there is nothing in importunate prayer because others, or even we ourselves, may have found no result. Let us look into ourselves for the cause: "Cleanse your hands ye sinners; cleanse your hearts ye double-minded." "Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you" (Jas. iv. 8). "Seek and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you."
Nazareth Revisited Ch 44
20 But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.
THE KINGDOM NOT IN EXISTENCE
The Kingdom of God is certainly not now in existence. If it were, the kingdoms of this world would not be.
The "elements" of the Kingdom of God are one thing: the kingdom itself another. Granted that the elements exist. Granted that the land is an "element:" that Christ in heaven is an element; that the Jews are an element; that the saints are an element. It is not according to knowledge to call these elements the kingdom.
The kingdom is the synthesis, or putting together of its elements. A kingdom is that organisation of human affairs in which the authority of the king is enforced-not merely affirmed. There is no enforcement of the authority of God upon earth just now-not even among the saints.
There is no king in Israel, and every man does that which is right in his own eyes. To call such a state of things the kingdom, because the king and his purpose exists, and his invitations are out, is to do what God accused Job's friends of-"darkening counsel by words without knowledge."
The Bible form of sound words on the subject is, "The God of Heaven shall set up a kingdom": until it is set up, it is not in existence. To say it is in existence because its "germ" exists is like saying the oak tree exists because you have the acorn in your hand. The "elements" of a man exist when you have earth, air, and water: but who would call these the man till they are put together.
To talk of the Kingdom of God being now in existence is especially objectionable at a time when everybody around us is saying so in a wrong sense. It is like playing into the hand of the enemy. It is not justifiable in any manner.
The fact that the coming kingdom has present relations because it has been promulgated as a matter of purpose is no reason at all why we should appear to affirm that it has come. We must not appear to declare a lie, even if we mean the truth. We must keep the facts, as distinguished from the phrases of truth, clear from the fogs of misapprehension that prevail on every hand.
The Christadelphian, Oct 1896
26 Then goeth he, and taketh to him 7 other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.
Is it a wonder that he spoke of them as "this wicked generation," whom he likened to a cured madman, who relapses and allies himself at the last with seven others, more mad than himself, and makes with them a pandemonium of his house, which had been put into an orderly state when he was cured. "Even so," says he, "shall it be also unto this wicked generation."
The history of the case shows the application. At the first the nation submitted to the preaching of John the Baptist, followed by that of Jesus, and became morally sane, but afterwards they returned to the leadership of the Scribes and Pharisees, and sank into a worse state than they were in before, and were given over to destruction at the hands of the Romans.
While Jesus was uttering these things, he was surrounded by a crowd who naturally listened with great eagerness to what passed between Jesus and their own clergy (for such the Scribes and Pharisees were). It requires no great exercise of fancy to imagine the dense silent packing of the people and their, eager outstretched heads straining to catch the words of the speakers. What a privilege to be there, though they did not know it.
It generally is the case that people "know not the day of their visitation."
Nazareth Revisited - Ch 25
38 And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed before dinner.
"A certain Pharisee," who listened to these things, was struck with the piquancy and originality of Christ's discourse; and, though not surrendering to him, he desired a closer acquaintance. He therefore asked him to come and dine with him. Jesus consented, and accompanied the Pharisee to his house. The Pharisee naturally watched Christ's deportment attentively. He observed that he did not first wash before dinner," but "sat down to meat" without that customary ceremony.
The Pharisee said nothing, but thought very unfavourably of the circumstance, and, no doubt, looked a little disgusted. However he may have looked, Jesus knew what was passing in his mind...*
40 Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also?
We may be sure that this did not mollify the feelings that were hurt by the omission to wash hands. Why was Jesus so apparently rude in remark? Why did he omit the innocent hand-washing before dinner? If we realise the work which Christ had been sent to do, and the state of the community in which the work had to be done, we may see the answer.
The community was in a state of spiritual mummification, having much correctness of outward manners, according to the standard prescribed by "tradition," combined with much self-satisfaction, and real destitution of those qualities of "judgment, mercy, and faith," which are the true salt of acceptable deportment in the sight of God. It was Christ's work to either bring them to repentance or "give a testimony against them." He could not do this without fitting occasion, and it was for him to create occasion as circumstances might call.
To violate social etiquette was to create occasion. In the state of wonderment caused, it gave him the opportunity to inveigh against the mere outside proprieties that were unaccompanied with the interior graciousness from which they derive all their meaning. And as to the roughness of speech, it was his part to "cry aloud and spare not: show Israel their transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sins." *
41 But rather give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you.
42 But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
It is most important as a matter of instruction to note in Christ's remarks his total condemnation of any scrupulosity as to external decorums that is not accompanied by a complete subjection of heart and mind to mercy, truthfulness, justice, and the fear of God; and further, his utter reprobation of that habit of indifference to the woes and burdens of others which was characteristic of the lawyers of his age, and the lawyers of every age since, and more or less of all classes of men.
It may not be considered prudent, it may be considered quixotic and erratic to the point of aberration for a man to be governed in his transactions by some regard to how they may bear on others. But it is according to Christ that we bear one another's burdens, and that we do not to others what we should not wish done to ourselves. And the law of Christ will shape the destinies of men, and will yet rule the world, however unanimously a hundred generations may consider it impracticable and visionary. *
44 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.
The Pharisees were a religious sect; the Scribes, a class having a religious sanctity in the eyes of the people from their occupation as copyists of the sacred scrolls. Members of both orders were probably present at the dinner at which Jesus so discourteously spoke (as it would be thought by them), and Jesus appears to have directed his discourse to both. Some lawyers were present also. These were also a semi-sacred class, having, however, more to do with the administration of the law in its secular bearings.
They appear to have felt that Christ's remarks reflected upon them, as well as upon the Scribes and Pharisees, probably because of their close identification with both. One of them said...*
46 And he said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers.
This outspoken and commanding reprobation of things and men who were in high repute among the people, and who are always respectfully dealt with by ordinary writers and teachers, is one of the things that distinguished Christ from all who ever went before him. Anything of the same kind that has been exhibited by those who came after is but a faint imitation, and sits with none of the grace and majesty appertaining to him "who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth."
Here is a god-like penetration and independence and righteous anger never shown by the best of the sons of men. This is enough of itself to mark the origin and nature of the speaker. It was not in mere mortal man to evince such uniform towering majesty and moral grandeur. "God in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself," is the only sufficient explanation of this brightest and strangest of all historic phenomena. *
*Nazareth Revisited Ch 44
50 That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation;
51 From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation.
That the crisis of the fall was the period of laying the foundation of the world, in its civil, social, and spiritual relations, appears from the use of the phrase in the apostolic writings. The Lord Jesus, speaking of what was about to come upon the generation then living in Judea, said, "the blood of all the prophets shed from the foundation of the world shall be required of this generation;" and to show to what period of the world He referred, He added by way of explanation, "from the blood of Abel" (Luke 11:50-51), the prophet of his day.
The phrase is also applied by the apostle to the work of the six days (Heb. 4:3-4), that is, as the basis, or substratum, in or upon which the social and political system was constituted. There is further proof of the judgment of the transgressors being the institutional foundation of the world, in the words, "all that dwell upon the earth shall do homage to him," the ten-horned papal beast, "whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the laying of the worlds foundation" (Rev. 13:8).
By this is signified that, when the Lord God appointed coats of skins to cover the man and woman's shame, lambs were slain, which they were taught to understand were representative of the Seed, who should be slain for the sins of all the faithful, and with whose righteousness they should be clothed after the type of their covering by the skins of their sacrifices.
Elpis Israel 1.4.
52 Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.
A key is used in Scripture as a symbol of the power of revealing, or interpreting, secret things; also for power in general. As a key is to a lock, so is power to things intellectual, moral, and political. The Scriptures say of Messiah, "the key shall be upon His shoulder," i. e. "the government shall be possessed by Him." And again, "I have says Jesus, "the key (KLEIS) of the unseen (HADOU) and of death;" which is to say, that Jesus hath the power to open the abode, or chamber, of the dead, and to restore them to life. In these instances, a key is the symbol of political, and physical, power; but it also represents scientific, or knowledge-imparting, power.
Thus, under the law of Moses, it was divinely appointed that "the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and Israel should seek the law at his mouth: for he was the messenger of the Lord of Hosts." The priests, however, became so corrupt and ignorant, that Israel sought in vain for knowledge at their lips, and therefore perished for lack of it. The Lord charged this home upon them by the hand of Malachi.
"Ye are" says He, "departed out of the way, 0 ye priests; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the Lord of Hosts. Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept My ways, but have been partial in the law" (Mal. 2:7).
This was precisely the state of things when "THE MESSENGER OF THE COVENANT" made His appearance in Judea. He denounced them for their corruptions. "Ye have made" said He, "the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Hypocrites that ye are, ye draw nigh to God with your mouth, and honor Him with your lips, but your heart is far from Him. But in vain do ye worship Him, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."
Among these hypocrites were the lawyers, who, feeling the keenness of His reproaches, remonstrated against it. But He turned upon them, and said, "Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the KEY OF KNOWLEDGE: ye enter not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered" (Luke 11:52).
This was the unhappy condition of the Jewish nation at the appearing of Jesus; as it is of all the nations at the present time against whom the kingdom is shut by clerical traditions. The Lord Jesus came to restore to Israel the key of knowledge. "They erred not knowing the Scriptures;" but He was about to open them, so that in spite of the hypocrites, they might enter into the kingdom of God.
O that men could be induced now to devote themselves to the study of the Scriptures without regard to articles, creeds, confessions, and traditions! These things are more rubbish, monuments of presumption and folly of former generations indoctrinated with the wisdom from beneath. If a Berean spirit could be infused into them; if they could be persuaded to "search the Scriptures daily" (Acts 17:11,12) for the truth as for hid treasure, they would soon leave their spiritual guides alone in all their glory of mysticism and patristic lore, and rejoice in that liberty of that truth which can alone make men "free indeed."
Elpis Israel 2.1.
53 And as he said these things unto them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to urge him vehemently, and to provoke him to speak of many things:
'...the lesson yielded on the ways of providence is to be learnt in the contemplation of the perfectly natural manner, to all appearance, in which the death of Christ came about. His teaching stirred up the anger of the ruling class among the Jews (Matthew 23:13). They laid traps for Him that they might hand Him over to the Roman authorities (Luke 20: 20).
Ways of Providence Ch 23
54 Laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him.