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    September 9, 1886

    “Their Wisdom Is Perished” The Signs of the Times, 12, 35.

    E. J. Waggoner

    The subject of the International Sunday-school lesson for August 15 was “Christ Teaching Humility,” the text being John 13:1-17. We do not design in this article to consider in detail the subject of feet-washing as a Christian ordinance, for that ground was thoroughly canvassed in the “Notes” in the SIGNS of that week; but we wish to call attention to some of the “expositions” of the text that are given in the various religious journals.SITI September 9, 1886, page 550.1

    First we pickup the Christian Union. It says on verses 12-16:-SITI September 9, 1886, page 550.2

    “Feet-washing seems here to be as explicitly commanded as the Lord’s Supper. Yet there is no evidence that it was practiced in apostolic times, nor is in general use in the Christian church to-day. It is practiced in some Greek convents, by the Pope once a year on Maundy Thursday, and by some minor Baptist sects, chiefly confined to Pennsylvania. This apparent regard of Christ’s seemingly explicit command can be defended only on the general ground that no ceremonial is of the essence of Christianity; that what Christ prescribes is not the symbol, but the spirit symbolized.”SITI September 9, 1886, page 550.3

    Then we think it would be well for “the Christian church” to learn the meaning of these words which are found in this connection: “The servant is not greater than his Lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.” If Christ gave it an explicit command (as he did in this instance), and “the church” has taken it upon itself to decide that compliance with that command is not necessary, then certainly the servant has, in his own estimation, got quite a distance above his Lord.SITI September 9, 1886, page 550.4

    “No ceremonial is of the essence of Christianity.” Very true; but that is no reason for disregarding the ceremony if it is commanded. We should not refuse to follow certain ordinances because those ordinances may be performed in a mechanical matter, but should see to it that we perform them with the spirit. We all know that love is shown by obedience to the expressed wishes of another. We also know that a child may mechanically or from necessity obey any given command, and that then the obedience indicates no love. That is, love is manifest, not by the mere performance of the act, but by the spirit with which that act is performed. Now recognizing this fact, a boy will say, “It seems quite plain that my father told me to care for this garden; but since the essence of love and obedience is not in any form, nor in outward acts of obedience, I will pay no attention to what he said, but will be sure to have a strong feeling of love in my heart.” The father would quickly decide that such a son was too “progressive.”SITI September 9, 1886, page 550.5

    It is not true that feet-washing was not practiced in apostolic times, as is shown by 1 Timothy 5:10. But even if the Saviour’s command had never been obeyed, that would not be the shadow of a reason why we should not obey it.SITI September 9, 1886, page 550.6

    Next we pick up the Methodist Recorder. On verse 14 it has the following:-SITI September 9, 1886, page 550.7

    “The command will rather find its fulfillment in all kinds of mutual condescension and help than any literal observance.”-Alford.SITI September 9, 1886, page 550.8

    Oh, yes; that settles the matter. Mr. Alford’s dictum is sufficient. To be sure Christ said, “Ye also ought to wash one another’s feet,” but Dean Alford says that he didn’t mean what he said, and so we need not trouble ourselves over the matter any more. This is a sample of the pernicious use of commentaries, and of the perniciousness of nineteenths of the comments that are written. When a man gives a scholarly criticism of the meaning of some terms in the original, or when he compares several texts bearing on one point, and shows the necessary conclusion therefrom,-that is legitimate comment; but when he ventures to give his own opinion of a text, unsupported by any authority, it were better for that matter if he had never written a commentary; and people who implicitly trust any commentator who will even once give his own opinion as to the meaning of a text, are willingly walking into darkness.SITI September 9, 1886, page 550.9

    The Christian at Work has a comment very similar to that of the Christian Union. It says:-SITI September 9, 1886, page 550.10

    “Finally the application of the entire transaction comes out in the words: ‘If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.’ This is not to be literally understood; for neither the apostles nor the members of the early church, though acting under the direction of the Spirit, ever actually practiced feet-washing as a religious rite.”SITI September 9, 1886, page 550.11

    To this we would say, (1) That because a public record of the performance of an act is not kept, that is no evidence that the act was not done. The thing having been commanded, we naturally conclude that it was practiced, except when the church was not led by the Spirit; for obedience to known requirement is an evidence of being led by the Spirit. (2) In 1 Timothy 2:10, feet-washing is mentioned by Paul as a well-known Christian duty, and one entirely distinct from acts of hospitality and relieving the afflicted. (3) Obligation to perform any deed can rest only on an expressed commandment, and not on the action of any other persons. When a thing is commanded, it is our duty to do it, even if everybody else disregards it.SITI September 9, 1886, page 550.12

    But the Christian at Work overthrows its own theory when it says concerning the Saviour’s command:-SITI September 9, 1886, page 550.13

    “It means that as the Lord found it not inconsistent with the highest dignity and glory to minister in all lowliness unto the weakest, so we must find exaltation and happiness by doing likewise.”SITI September 9, 1886, page 550.14

    Just above it said that feet-washing is not to be practiced, because (as it claims) the apostles and the members of the early church did not do so. Then by the same “reasoning,” ministering unto the weak and lowly is not to be done unless “the church” in all ages has done so. Now the veriest tyro in history knows that the great apostasy began in the very days of the apostles, when there were many in the church who loved to have the pre-eminence, and that for hundreds of years the members of the church, instead of finding exaltation and happiness in serving the weak, found it in building themselves up at the expense of others. And so according to the popular exposition of John 13:1-16, it is now every man’s duty to look out for himself, regardless of others. When one begins to “explain away” the Bible, he may as well throw it away.SITI September 9, 1886, page 550.15

    The Sabbath Recorder, however, caps the climax of absurdity in the following extract:-SITI September 9, 1886, page 550.16

    “In company with a traveling companion, we reached the house of another friend about noon, after a long journey on foot, under a hot sun, and over a dusty road. We had barely passed the customary greetings, and taken our seats in the best room, when the good woman of the house asked us to take off our boots. Seeing that we hesitated, she repeated her request in a manner which plainly showed that she was not joking. We accordingly took them off, and she took them out of the room. Presently she returned them as neatly blackened as they had been for some time. When she set them down she said, ‘And thus I have fulfilled my Lord’s command to wash the disciples’ feet.’ And who shall say that she had not done so?”SITI September 9, 1886, page 550.17

    Everybody ought to say that she did not. In the first place, even if our Saviour’s command had reference only to acts of hospitality, it would not be fulfilled by performing such acts and then calling attention to it. True hospitality, as well as true obedience, is unostentatious. But the idea of saying that for one person to black another’s boots is a fulfillment of our Lord’s word, “Ye also ought to wash one another’s feet,” is too absurd for serious comment. According to this exposition, the Saviour’s words should be read thus: “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to black one another’s boots! For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” The simple statement of the case refutes it. Besides, the reader will notice that the act of feet-washing is to be reciprocal: “Ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.” Now allowing that to wash feet means to black boots, in order to have the command fulfilled in the case under consideration, the editor of the Recorder ought to have turned around and blacked the good woman’s shoes.SITI September 9, 1886, page 550.18

    The very absurdity of such an exposition as the above is, after all, the most serious thing about it; for it is sad to think that men will thus sport with a divine command. It is nothing less than making void the commandments of God. On the same principle men rest on Sunday, and say that they are thus obeying the Lord’s command to “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” With as much reason others are sprinkled with a few drops of water, and say that they are obeying the injunction to be baptized. On such a principle of interpretation there is no conceivable act that may not be construed into obedience to some divine command.SITI September 9, 1886, page 550.19

    It is sad to think that because of such deviations of plain precepts, men are losing their power to comprehend the simplest truth; but so it is. The Lord says: “Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men; therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder; for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.” Isaiah 29:13, 14. When a wise man turns aside from the plain commandments of the Lord, he becomes the most dangerous of counselors. W.SITI September 9, 1886, page 550.20

    “Who Is Worthy?” The Signs of the Times, 12, 35.

    E. J. Waggoner

    W. D. C. asks: “When will Matthew 25:31-46 be fulfilled? Are ‘my brethren’ (verse 40) a third class distinct from the sheep and the goats? It seems as if those who have heard the gospel would not be so surprised at the words of Christ.”SITI September 9, 1886, page 550.21

    A reading of the text itself should suffice to answer the question. “When the Son of man shall, in his glory, and all the holy angels with him,” can be nothing but the glorious second advent of Christ, when “he shall send his angels with a great sound of the trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four wins, from one into heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:31); when “he shall reward every man according to his works.” Matthew 16:27. At that time, as now, there will be but two classes,-the righteous and the wicked. A reading of the passage will show, that those on the right hand are the righteous, and that those on the left, the goats, are of the wicked. There is not now, nor will there ever be, any class between these two; if a man is not good, he is bad: there can be no middle ground. Says Christ: “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.” Matthew 12:30.SITI September 9, 1886, page 550.22

    Now as to the question of surprise which the righteous ask, verses 37-39, we see nothing in it to indicate that those who ask it have never heard the gospel. Humility is the characteristic of the Christian. If they have learned of Jesus, who is meek and lowly of heart, they will be very unconscious of their own worthiness. There will be no spirit of boasting. If they should say, “Yes, Lord, we know that we have done all these things; we have served you faithfully,” that would be an indication that they had heard the gospel and vain. See Matthew 7:22, 23. But no such spirit will exist among those are really Christ’s. No one will think of proclaiming his own worthiness, because, as a matter of fact, no one will have any worthiness of his own, but will be “complete in him, who is the head of all principality in power.” Colossians 2:10. And so instead of thinking of themselves, or claiming anything because of their own merit, the redeemed will with one accord unite in saying, “Worthy is a Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing.”SITI September 9, 1886, page 550.23

    “Camp-Meeting in Santa Barbara County” The Signs of the Times, 12, 35.

    E. J. Waggoner

    This meeting, the third of the kind that has been held in the State this season, was held at Santa Maria, just within the north boundary line of Santa Barbara County. The camp was located in a eucalyptus grove close by the village, and was a pleasant place to see. Its arrangements, as well as the uniform quiet on the grounds, and the promptness and order with which everything was conducted, called forth many expressions of surprise and admiration from all who attended either as campers or as a transient visitors. Many had supposed that camp-meetings were always scenes of disorder and confusion; they seemed surprised to learn that people can worship God in a house of cotton with as much decorum and reverence as they can in a house of wood.SITI September 9, 1886, page 551.1

    The attendance, both of our own people and others, was small. The time of the camp-meeting was a little unfortunate, it being a time when nearly everybody was engaged in threshing. This, of course, was sufficient reason for the limited transient attendance; and the fact that our brethren in that section have newly come to the faith, and could not realize the importance of a camp-meeting, will account for the absence of some of them. But we think that an impression was made on all who were present that will be lasting, and that will not be confined simply to them. Visitors who came out of a curiosity went away to sound the praises of a meeting where all was peace. Visitors who came out of curiosity went away to sound the praises of a meeting where all was peace and quiet; and some who were in the dark as to duty, went away rejoicing in the light of present truth. All seemed very grateful for the instruction given, and no one could doubt but that the souls of all were refreshed, as they testified of their increased knowledge of the love and mercy of God, and of their determination to press forward to new victories in the strength of that love.SITI September 9, 1886, page 551.2

    The spirit of sacrifice manifested by those that came to the meeting was commendable, and will, we believe, bear fruit. From nearly one hundred miles south, and from an equal distance north, women and children rode in open wagons over mountain roads, camping out at night under their wagons, that they might be present. It is almost needless to add that they were present at the beginning of the meeting, and that they stayed until the close. This is not, however, meant as a reproach to those were present only a portion of the time. We are convinced that all made the strongest effort possible under the circumstances.SITI September 9, 1886, page 551.3

    The expenses of the meeting were promptly and cheerfully meet. As an item of encouragement we also note that the attention of many is being directed to the College, and that some from the southern countries will attend the coming term. We believe that our educational institutions were planted in the province of God, and that upon them largely depends the future of the young among us, as well as the general advancement of the cause. We believe that God designs them to wield an influence that has as yet scarcely been dreamed of but by few.SITI September 9, 1886, page 551.4

    All left for their homes with good courage, with regrets that the meeting closed so soon, and with a determination that the next one should be more largely attended if their influence could do aught toward accomplishing that result. W.SITI September 9, 1886, page 551.5

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