we need not be discouraged
We need not be discouraged because of the stolid indifference of the people to the truth. Flesh and blood is naturally swinish and unimpressible by the thoughts of God. The world, which is choked with religion, such as it is, is made of this stiff-necked material. It is in the state of an inebriate who has caroused himself into delirium tremens, or a snoring apoplexy. It’s exitation or brain-congestion can only be relieved by copious depletion. To preach the Truth to it is like telling fables to a deaf man; putting a jewel in a swine’s snout; or casting things holy to dogs. This is the nature of the flesh and blood world – it is only evil, and that continually. But all the individuals of this perverse race are not so absolutely controlled by the evil thereof as to be incapable of sobriety in word and deed. The race has some “honest and good hearts” yet, which are as salt, preserving it from total and irretrievable corruption. They require, however, to be salted with wisdom, and persecution, or fire, for the truth’s sake, to make them fit for the Master’s use (Mark 9:49,50; Col 4:6). It is for the salting of these hearts that those who are already salted have to labour with a right good will. They must “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered unto the saints”, with the conviction all the time that a Paul may plant, and an Apollos water, but God only gives the increase. All we have to do is to dig, plough, sow, work, as men do who leave it to the sun by day and moon by night, and to the air, earth, and rain, to give the increase from that begotten in the soil. We as day labourers need not be discouraged, if we do our duty, be there increase or not. All that we have to do in the premises is that we be “workmen who rightly divide the word of truth” (2Tim 2:15), and not as those who handle the Word of God deceitfully; and fear to affirm His principles boldly lest some one whose corns were pinched by the gospel-shoe (feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, Eph 6:15) should cry out “Sectarianism!” And threaten you with the rebuke of Jesus and the apostle Paul!
The word, where properly put into the right kind of soil, will yield just an increase as God has predetermined. He has sent it as the rain and snow of heaven for the fructification of the earth, that sowers, and reapers, and eaters, may all rejoice together at harvest-home. Read Isaiah 55:10,11, where Jehovah says, “As the rain cometh down, and the snow, from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater; so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it”.
What hath He pleased, and what hath He sent His word to do? “To take out of the Gentiles a people for his name” (Acts 15:14). He is going to set up a kingdom which is to rule over all the earth and sea; and He requires a people sufficiently numerous to administer its affairs to His praise, honour, and glory. This being His purpose, He does not need as great a multitude as is generally supposed when men entangle themselves in speculations about the number of the saved. “Many are called”, says the King, “but few are chosen”; “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it”; “Many will seek to enter in, and shall not be able” (Mat 7:14; 20:16; Luke 13:23). These are not our words; but they are his who spake the words of God.
Jehovah then requires a chosen few for His kingdom – “a chosen generation”, “from the beginning chosen of God to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth”, called thereunto by Paul’s gospel, “unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ”, “to the obtaining of his glory” (1Pet 2:9; 2Thess 2:13,14; 1Pet 1:2). John saw this company, this “little flock”, as Jesus styles them in Luke 12:32, to whom the Father will give the kingdom; John, we say, saw them in military panoply and array, surrounding their Generalissimo in his wars upon the kings of the earth; and he says they were “called, and chosen, and faithful” (Rev 17:14).
But though relatively few, the are absolutely “a great multitude which no man can number” (Rev 7:9). They are few compared with all the human race that ever fretted and stewed out their brief existence on the earth. A few taken out of Enoch’s generation, and a few out of Noah’s, and a few out of Moses’ and so on; until these parcels of the few, separated from the solid mass during 6,000 years, being gathered into ONE GLORIOUS COMPANY OF ANCIENTS, become absolutely a great multitude, and numerous enought to establish the will of God upon earth, and to cause it to be respected for a thousand years.
The Father hath given this company of the redeemed ones to the Son for his brethren and associates in all his future enterprises upon earth. “They follow the Lamb”, saith John, “whithersoever he goeth”. They are “redeemed from among men, firstfruits to God and to the Lamb” (Rev 14:4). “All that the Father giveth me”, says Jesus, “shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. And this is the Father’s will, that of all he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day”. And again, “No man can come to me, except the Father who hath sent me draw him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they (who attain to the resurrection he was speaking of) shall all be taught of God. Every man, therefore, that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me” (Jno 6:37-45). “He that is of God heareth not God’s words; ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God” (Jno 8:47). And again, he saith to these goats, “ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give unto them the life of the Aion (zoë ainönian), and they shall not be destroyed in the Aionan (eis ton aiöna), neither shall any one wrest them out of my hand” (Jno 10:26).
Men have been so commanded to preach the word, to be instant in season and out of season, to contend earnestly for the faith and so forth, as the means appointed for the separation of this people. Testimony and reasoning, or Scripture and reasoning out of the Scripture, are the spiritual elements constituting the spiritual agency for their “sanctification of the Spirit”. This spiritual agency is just adequate to the numerical completion of this people, termed “the fulness of the Gentiles” in Rom 11:25, and no more. It is adequate to the accomplishment of this, for this result is that for which the word was given; and Jehovah saith it shall accomplish it. It is not adequate to the conversion of the world. This is a result never contemplated in the premises. If God had designed the conversion of all nations in the absence of His Son from the earth, He would have instituted a system of means adequate to such a result. The spiritual agency was more potent in the days of the Apostles in that is consisted not only of a declaration of the testimony, and a reasoning out of it’s points, but a confirmation also of the reasoning by signs, wonders, miracles and gifts. Here were God and man visibly co-working in the separation of this people for His Name. Yet with this more potent spiritual agency the world could not be converted; nay, a multitude even of those who were primarily turned to God turned from Him again; and that too while the apostles lived, and while the gifts of the Holy Spirit continued to be bestowed. The gifts were discontinued for two reasons; first, because they had answered the purpose for which they were originally given; and secondly, because through the working of the Mystery of Iniquity, Christians proved themselves unworthy of the glorious indwelling of the Holy Spirit in their midst. The testimony was confirmed; but the confirmation of the reasoning has been withdrawn, and the spiritual agency for the completion of the work begun at the house of Cornelius, reduced to what we see.
Now the nearer we approach to the apocalypse of Jesus, the less influence will the word be found to exercise over the mind of the general public. We ought not be discouraged at the fact. The time is fast approaching for the Gentile branch to be broken off; and for Israel to be grafted in. The branches of Israel and Judah were broken off because of unbelief – because they did not fear the name of Jehovah their Elohim – the Jehovah-Spirit manifested through David’s Son – nor believe the gospel of the kingdom preached in his name. For this cause the brotherhood of Israel and Judah was broken by the Roman power; and a day of grace granted to the Gentiles. But these have proved as faithless of the truth as Israel. There were many Jews in Jerusalem and Palestine who believed with unexceptional fidelity the things apostolically delivered; still their faith was only enough for their own salvation; and altogether inadequate to avert the judgement of God from the nation.