IT is well-nigh impossible for one to live in and pass through this lower world and not take notice, to some extent, of things going on about him. We feel impressed at this writing, rather than to present our views on some portion of Scripture, to look around and call attention to a few things being taught and practiced by the world that cannot fail to be of meaning to us who profess to be, and hope that we are, the church of the living God. Nothing ever transpires in either creation, providence or grace but bears some relation, direct or remote, to the welfare and good, immediate or ultimate, of those called according to the purpose of God unto eternal life. It is not necessary to be able to explain or understand how “all things work together for good” in order to believe it. Faith lays hold on all things of the Spirit which to the reason and intellect are inexplicable. We do with all our heart assuredly believe that everything that ever was made, everything that has ever existed, does now or ever will exist, is for the glory of God through Jesus Christ the Lord, and for the good of his people. Nothing however slight, however good or evil in our judgment it may be, ever occurs in the lives of men or histories of nations but fulfills the predestined purpose of Jehovah from before all worlds began. “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” Inspiration here assures us that not only were all things made by the Word, the Son of God, but they were also made for him, not against him, and that all these things consist by him. This matter of consistency shows that God did not in the beginning wind up the universe and start it going, somewhat as a child might do a mechanical toy, and is now simply letting it run down of itself, merely letting it spend the momentum of its initial impulse. No, but he sees to it that all these things of diverse propensities originally created and made by him do “consist,” that is, they “stand together” in accomplishing the purpose for which he designed them. Nothing can fly off at a tangent, or mix up so as to clog the wheels of something else, but each thing, however rebellious or contrary it may be of itself, and each thing, however good and excellent it may be, must bend to a common center. The omnipotence of God is the all-dominating force that compels all things to converge to a final goal: his declarative glory and the good of his people. “Every dark and bending line meets in the center of his love.”
With this introduction we shall proceed with our looking around, and oven in those things which we shall criticise, which the testimony of the Scriptures shall lead us to condemn as being contrary to truth, we shall always remember the purpose of God, from before the beginning, is being fulfilled. first, as illustrating a doctrine which is being preached and contended for everywhere in the world, we note this from a recent New York paper: “The teachings of christianity look to the ultimate gathering together of all mankind in one great human brotherhood.” This doctrine of the “brotherhood of man “ is rapidly intoxicating the whole world, but all nations and individuals are woefully far behind in putting it into practice. The brotherhood of man is not taught anywhere in the Scripture. All men are dead in Adam, born in sin, shapen in iniquity and come forth from the womb speaking lies. The brotherhood of man consists only in being brothers in Adam, in sin, error and death. But those who contend for this doctrine say the whole of mankind is verging toward a unity of immortality, of peace and love. According to them, everybody is a child of God, and God is everybody’s Father. How can this be when Jesus said exclusively to his chosen disciples after he had withdrawn himself from the multitude into a mountain apart, “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven”? To none but his called disciples did Jesus give authority to claim God as their Father. No man can teach another to say, “Our Father.” To teach our little children at our knees to pray, “Our Father,” is to make hypocrites of them. The true church of the Christ will not, cannot, take the name of the. Lord their God in vain. They cannot take it in vain, because it is their right to take it, it belongs to them, they are called unto it, begotten of God. The world cannot take the name of God as Father; it is not given unto the world. Only by the indwelling of the Spirit of adoption, of sonship, can any man say, “Abba, Father.” in order to become the sons of God there must be a birth, and that according to the will of God, of the Spirit, and not of the flesh. Being born of him, made partakers of the divine nature, they have right to claim God as their Father, they lie not in so doing. God is the Creator of all men, he is not the Father of all men. The Words “Creator” and “Father” have a very different meaning. True, Peter does say, “Love the brotherhood,” but it is a far cry to say that by that he means, love the World. Peter expressly addresses the brotherhood as the “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” The brotherhood exists, therefore, only between those embraced in the covenant of election, sanctified through the Spirit, and sprinkled with the blood of Jesus Christ. This “brotherhood of man” meets with the approval of the world, because no one nowadays but a subject of grace believes in the total depravity of human nature, that “the whole world lieth in wickedness,” that “the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores.” On the other hand, all but avowed infidels do believe that in every individual there is a spark of immortality, that every man has an immortal soul. This is not true. He (Christ) “only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; Whom no man hath seen, nor can see.” No man has eternal life, immortality, only as it is the gift of God through Christ to him. All men are dead, born dead, live in death, pass away in death, unless quickened by the Spirit of God and raised from their death in Adam to life in Christ by the power of his resurrection. But while on every side men loudly proclaim this bewitching phrase, “the brotherhood of man,” they come far short of showing their faith by their works. The record of their daily deeds attests their selfishness and greed, not their unworldliness and brotherly love. It is as though God mocks the thoughts of their hearts in bringing into manifest confusion their counsels and deliberations. Many have been led to think, by the way people on every side have been talking, that the era of peace and good-will was literally about to dawn, that the nations of the earth were about to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruninghooks, were about to consign their vast and ingenious engines of warfare to the junk-heap, and to depend upon the “justice inherent in the breast of every man,” as they say, to settle all their disputes, when, lo, from the kingdoms oversea come the peal of drums, the roll of artillery, the thunder of cannon, as these so-called “brothers” fly at each other’s throats, thirsting for each other’s blood, in the most terrible conflict of nations the world has ever seen. What, now, about the brotherhood of man? Surely God brings to naught the cogitations of the wise. All goes to show that man by nature is in league with the devil, and new er will be anything else unless delivered from captivity to the “prince of the power of the air” by the grace of God in Jesus Christ the Lord. Christ, and he alone, can burst asunder the prison doors of hell, can break dungeon chains of innate depravity and corruption, thus freeing the prisoner from the law of sin and death, ushering him into the unspeakable glories of redemption and justification, and making a new man of him. Not alone from Europe comes the voice of upheaval, but in our own America disturbing elements are at work. Are they the forces of construction or destruction? God only knows. Labor is jealously safe guarding its rights against capital, capital seeks to intrench itself against the multiplying demands of labor. Now and then burst forth in volcanoes of unable-to-be-suppressed feeling, riots, strikes and the like. Do they betoken a larger conflagration drawing steadily nigh?Old time religious convictions are being swept away. We speak here not with reference to the true church, but with regard to the world. Only a few generations ago America had a “form of godliness,” even though she lacked the spirit of it. This “outward piety “ served as a moral restraint, if nothing more. The popular “higher criticism” of this, our day, spreading from our colleges, universities and seats of learning, has permeated all conditions and ranks of society, unseating men’s confidence in the inspiration of the Scriptures and in the reality of a future existence, turning the miracles of Jesus into more tables and myths, denying his virgin birth and his vicarious atonement. Such teachings, coming from men whom we have been accustomed to hold in respect, have torn the form of piety from those whose immorality was restrained by it. Men unblushingly avow their infidelity and skepticism, getting for it the applause of the crowd. The marvelous discoveries and inventions of science during the past two decades have turned the people’s heads, and now everything, even the sayings and doings of the blessed Jesus, must be subjected to the scientific test, and are rejected as fit only for children and childish minds if they do not stand the test. Surely America is a land without God in the world as much as any other. The flaunting of wealth and luxury, its public parade on the part of the rich, arouse discontent and a desire to emulate in the breasts of the poor. The increased cost of living makes continually more irksome and unbearable the tendency on the part of many to live beyond their means in order to keep in the race, as, for example, note those now running automobiles who a year or so ago could hardly keep a horse. The prevalence of divorce striking at the very root and seclusion of the home, books and magazines featuring articles that tear the veil of reticence from matters that our mothers and grandmothers were wont to conceal with becoming modesty, what effect, think you, is all this to have on the generation coming up? From the lowest to the highest ranks of our citizenship discontent, uneasiness, even if not rebellion, are plainly in evidence. What is the meaning of it all? Education nowadays busying itself with frills, foibles, and nonessentials, laying stress on knowledge and industrial training to the utter neglect of principle and nobility of character, awakening in the hearts of the young ideals impracticable of accomplishment, making them dissatisfied with their lot in life, causing them, to regard as old fogies and know-nothings all that went before them; what, indeed, is the harvest to be? “Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” The fruit will assuredly sooner or later make manifest the character of the tree that bears it. And, yet, we are told the world is growing better. We prefer to believe thus: “Tn the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” The depravity that was in Adam by nature is becoming daily more and more evident. Sometimes we are asked, Are not men worse to-day than they used to be? We answer: By nature, no; in outward manifestation, yes. Man’s nature is today the same as when it was created; nothing has been added to it or taken from it since then. He is but acting out what is in him, and his actions show how horrible his corruption has been all the time, even though at times restrained. The acorn is the oak tree in embryo. All that ever shall be in the mighty oak lies dormant and undeveloped in the seed. The succession of the seasons, the sun, the rain and the soil, put nothing into the tree that was not in the acorn; they but develop and cause to expand all the latent possibilities of the seed. So the onward march of the centuries, the rise and fall of nations, and all that we include in the expression, “the providence of God,” cause man to unfold himself and. show what is in him, but they add no new principle to him, nor take any old away. We have to confess that in looking around at the scenes being enacted about us, there is next to nothing to be found calculated to cheer the hearts of those who hope in the “rest that remaineth.” But it ought to make us glad, brethren, that this world is not our home, that here we have no continuing city, but seek one to come. How grateful must we feel that God in his mercy has not assigned us our portion here below, as he has evidently countless others; but that he has reserved for us an inheritance incorruptible and that fadeth not away. True, if one looks intelligently and understandingly at the events that are current in the world, it will doubtless alarm the heart of his flesh, but be his hope and trust in the Lord he cannot but rejoice that God, his God, is reigning and ruling everywhere, bending all things to the accomplishment of his inflexible purpose. We are glad we do believe that God has to do, not simply with all “good” things, but with all “evil” things as well. There are not two gods, one having power over all good, the other having power over all evil. No, there is just one God, and he is true and living. He is the Father of all the brethren of our Lord Jesus Christ, and is above all, and through all, and in them all. God and Satan are not two self-existent and co- existing powers. God alone is self-existing, self-sufficing, comprehending all things in his glorious attributes. The devil, who is he? Is he a throne, a dominion, a principality or a power? We cannot fail to classify him under one of these heads, and, if so, he must be a creature of God, subservient to his will. Not one step can he take, not one act can he perform, except it be the purpose of God that he should do so. He can have no power over the church, the people of God, to hurt or harm them, except it be given him of their Father. How glorious, how comforting, how soul-satisfying is the knowledge to the child of God that his Savior and Redeemer is supreme; that nothing can ever pluck the redeemed out of the Father’s hand; that Christ has put all things under his feet, and holds the keys of death and of hell; that when he opens, no man can shut, and when he shuts,none can open. Were we not assured by the God-given faith that is in us that all things are in his hands, that nothing escapes his all-seeing eye, that not the feeblest lamb strays beyond his protecting care, where would our hope and comfort be? There is one great comfort in looking around, and that is, we are made to see where our fellowship and love are; that they are not for the “vanity fair” in vogue all about us, but that the breathings of our spirit reach out for the unseen, the eternal verities of God. Now, dear readers, we commend all of you who love him in sincerity and in truth, to the constant care and keeping of him who alone is “able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.” To him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. L.
Elder H. H. Lefferts
Signs of the Times
Volume 82, No. 18
September 15, 1914