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The Transforming Efficacy of the Truth
The vital importance of understanding the Bible revelation of God will be manifest to those who admit the authority of the New Testament in matters of faith and practise, in considering the testimony of Him "Who proceedeth forth and came from God"; and who, in "giving to the disciples the words which the Father gave him," said: "Thou givest to Thy Son jurisdiction of all flesh, that everything which Thou hast given to him, he might give to them aionian life. And this is the life of the Aion (he aionios zoe) that they should understand Thee (ginoskosi se) the only true God, and Jesus Anointed whom Thou sendest" (John 17:2,3). From this testimony we learn --
The apostle John, who heard the utterance of this teaching, and who had delivered the same to the Jews and Gentiles whom he and his co-labourers were sent to enlighten with the light of life, reproduces the same doctrine in his first epistle, saying to them, "We have comprehended (oidamen) that the Son of the Deity is come, and hath given to us discernment that we might understand the True One, and we are in the True One, in His Son Jesus the Anointed. This is the true God, and the life of the Aion (he zoe aionios). Little children keep yourselves from the idols" (1 John 5:20).
This intellectual comprehension of the true God is renewing, and capable of developing the likeness of His moral or spiritual image in the illuminated. This is clear from many passages of Scripture. Jesus, the image of the Invisible God, in addressing the Father said: "I have given them (whom Thou hast given me) Thy word: sanctify them through Thy Truth: Thy word is Truth" (John 17:8, 9, 14, 17). And again, "Ye are clean through the word which I have spoken to you" (15:3). And John says: "the Spirit is the testifier, because the Spirit is the truth" (1 Epis. 5:6). And Paul alluding to the transforming efficacy of God's revelation of Himself comprehended and believed, tells obedient believers of the word, that they had put off the old man with his deeds, and put on "the new," made new again by exact knowledge (eis epignosin) after the image of Him creating him (Col. 3:9-10).
Here are two characters, or moral natures, in relation to one and the same animal man. Ignorant of the true God and Jesus the Anointed whom He has sent, the man A.B., is "alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in him" (Eph. 4:18): and is invested with "the body of the sins of the flesh" as with an apron of fig leaves. He is then in the Old Man state, and stands before God naked as Adam and Eve in Eden, obnoxious to the anger of offended Deity. He does not know or comprehend the Almighty. He thinks He is altogether such an one as himself, fickle, inconstant, mutable and false. He is as ignorant of His character, or Name, as he is of His hypostasis or substance. In the fulness of the ignorance he turns "philosopher," and presumes to discourse of God, and of soul, and of the ground of acceptance with Him! The presumption of this Old Man of the flesh, laden with sins and superstitions, is marvellous! He has filled the world with his lucubrations, or skotifications rather, and calls them "wisdom," "theology," "divinity," "philosophy," and so forth. Adam habited in fig leaves under the inspiration of the Serpent, is the incarnation of them all. He was "the Word of the Serpent made flesh"; the Federal Patriarch, or Chief Father, of all who walk in his steps:--the type, or representative pattern of all clerical and philosophical Jews and Gentiles who, "with the flesh," or its reasonings and gospel-nullifying traditions and practices, "serve the law of sin."
The Limitations of Fleshly Wisdom
Now of the clerical or rabbinical wisdom, and philosophy of this Old Man, the "wise men and scribes" whom the Jehovah* Spirit sent to Israel, speak in very contemptuous terms. Concerning the rabbinical and philosophical Jews of all times, to say nothing of the Gentiles who have plundered their tradition, they say, "He taketh the wise in their own craftiness" (Job 5:13). "Forasmuch as this people (Israel), draw near 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 precepts of men" -- their traditionizing and philosophizing rabbis; "therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, a marvellous work and a wonder; for the wisdom of their
[Publisher's Note: Dr. Thomas used the term "Jehovah" because it was in common use among people when he wrote, whereas "Yahweh" was not. He acknowledged, however, that the latter provided the more correct pronunciation of the Name. Today, Yahweh is generally accepted as the true form of the Divine Name, and therefore should be used before "Jehovah," particularly on the part of a people called out of Gentile darkness for the Name (Acts 15:14; 1 Thess. 1:1). In his later works, Brother Thomas used "Yahweh" much more frequently than the hybrid word, "Jehovah."]
wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid. Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from Jehovah, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us? Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter's clay, for shall the work say of Him that made it, He made me not? Or shall the thing framed say of Him that framed it, He has no understanding? Is it not yet a very little while and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field and the fruitful field shall be esteemed a forest"? Thus testified the Spirit of Christ in Isaiah, concerning the wise and prudent men of Israel (ch. 29:13), who professed to know God, but in their works denied Him. Their wisdom and understanding have shrivelled and perished from off the land, in which they took counsel against Jehovah and His Anointed, to burst their bands asunder, and to cast their cords away (Psalm 2). The stately cedars of Lebanon have been hewn down, and their fruitful fields are a forest; and all because "they knew not the true God and Jesus the Anointed."
But, as the Spirit of Christ in the same prophet, and in the same place, also testifies, although Jehovah has poured out upon the staggering guides of Israel the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed their eyes, and covered the prophets and rulers, and seers; and the vision of all is become as the "words of a sealed book," which the learned confess they cannot explain; yet "the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind see out of obscurity and out of darkness; the meek also increase their joy in Jehovah, and the poor among men rejoice in the Holy One of Israel." How literally this began to be accomplished in the day when Jehovah cut asunder his staff, Beauty; for whom, as the Spirit of Christ in Zechariah predicted, Judah and Israel's rulers weighed out to the traitor Judas, thirty pieces of silver; and afterwards cast the blood money to the potter for the purchase of his field (ch. 11:10-13). In that day, when "the poor of the flock were waiting upon Beauty," the deaf were made to hear, the blind to see, the meek to increase their joy, and the poor to rejoice in the broken staff Beauty, in the hand of the Holy One of Israel. "The poor had the gospel preached to them." When the deaf and the blind were cured, they rejoiced in what they heard. They embraced it as the wisdom of God, confirmed to them by Him with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and by the resurrection of Jesus, on the reunion of the fragments of the broken staff he had severed in his hand; "So," says the prophet, "the poor of the flock that waited upon me knew that it was the word of Jehovah."
But the rich and the powerful of the flock did not know, and do not know to this day. They are still the deaf and the blind,
with all their "vast learning" (!) and philosophy. We go to the Holy Land, the arena of Zion's controversy, and we inquire with Isaiah and Paul, Where are the wise? Where is the scribe? Where the disputants of the Mosaic Aion, who withstood "the truth as it is in Jesus"? The standing answer is, that "God hath made foolish their wisdom"; yea, the wisdom both of Jews and Greeks; for, says Paul, "the world by wisdom knew not God." They had wisdom but He pronounced it "foolishness"; and James steps in and adds his testimony, that their wisdom was from beneath, being a lie against the truth, and earthly, sensual, and demoniac (Jas. 3:14-15).
Such is the wisdom of the Old Man of the Flesh. It can rise no higher in conceptions of God than the zenith of its own halo. He thinks as he feels, and his feelings are only blind. Being a creature of earth, and sense, and sin, his conceptions of God are earthly, sensual, and demoniac. He proclaims Him to be an incomprehensible existence, without body or parts. Having assumed this, he deposits Him in every created thing, and theistically worships Him in men, birds, beasts, creeping things, and their images. In this assumption, the philosopher, the theologian, the idolator, all meet together upon common ground. This is their "One God," whom they represent as fierce, vindictive, cruel, and implacable; who, but for some more benevolent being, interposing between Him and men, would increase His own glory and enjoyment, and satisfy His eternal justice, by tormenting them in fire and brimstone endlessly. This is the God created and worshipped by the Old Man of the Flesh; worshipped, not because he loves Him, or sees anything in Him to admire, but because he is afraid of Him. Hence, all the fancy superstitions he has devised are an based upon one common error of the brain, namely the necessity of the worshipper doing something to placate the Deity. The prescriptions extant in the Old Man's dispensary for the purpose are multitudinous. Some of the most notable with which the world is empiricized and overspread, are those of cutting the flesh with knives after the manner of Baal; of causing children to pass through the fire after the manner of Moloch; of "covering the altar of Jehovah with tears, with weeping and with crying out," after the practice of the priests in the days of Malachi; of straining at gnats, and paying tithes of mint and cummin in the fashion of hypocrites; of self-immolation under the fervid wheels of Juggernaut; of voluntary martyrdom, after the manner of the disciples of the Nicolaitanes, Balaams, and Jezebels of the early centuries after Christ; of papistical penance in afflicting the body for its commendation to God; of many long "prayers" or rhapsodical rants, weeping, and cryings out for religion, after the manner commonly witnessed at the camp meetings and revivals
of the names and denominations which now fill the unmeasured court of the Gentiles (Rev. 11:2). These, and ten thousand other absurd practices of the temple, the synagogue, and church, are all expressive of the common error referred to above, and indicate the total ignorance of Jews and Gentiles, both of the Mosaic and Nazarene teaching concerning the Holy One of Israel.
The Purpose of Divine Revelation
Now, it is to exorcise A.B. of this Old Man, to deliver him from him, to cast the demon out, to "put off the old man and his deeds" from A.B.; to strip him of the fig leaves, and to put on the sacrificial victim's skin, the garment appointed of Jehovah Elohim, to hide or cover his sin or shame, that "the knowledge of God," or system of divine truth hath been devised. The Old Man of Sin's Flesh, who is the Devil, cannot be converted. His destiny is destruction; "for this purpose was the Son of God manifested that he might destroy the works of the Devil," or the works of the flesh, which are the same things: and "forasmuch also as the children (of his Father) are partakers of flesh and blood, He (the Son) himself, likewise, took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the Devil" (1 John 3:8; Heb. 2:14). Hence the Old Man of the Flesh and his deeds are doomed to extirpation from the earth at the hands of Jesus and his brethren. The Devil and all his superstitions of temple, synagogue, and church, whether dissentient or established, are all to be destroyed. Clergymen and Rabbis, philosophers and fools, will not indeed "go to the devil," but far better will vanish with him from the earth, which will remain emancipated and blessed for the "meek" whose heritage it is.
But if the Old Man cannot be converted, A.B. may. Our friend A.B. may "be taught of God," not by direct spirit-afflation, according to the Old Man's theology, but by the direct operation of the heavenly ideas of God upon his brain-flesh. These ideas are the living spirit, the divine agent in conversion, which, when understood and believed, inscribe upon the tablet of A.B.'s intellect and affections "the Law of the Spirit of the life in the Anointed Jesus," which "Spirit," as he himself hath said, "it is that makes alive," and "the words which I discourse to you is spirit and is life" (pneumu esti kai zoe estin). That is, spirit is the words, and life is the words discoursed. The spirit or power of the words is in the ideas they represent; and those ideas generate intellectual and moral, that is, spiritual life; which life having been fully developed in a character approved of Him from whom the ideas originate, is permanently manifested in "the crown of life," the reward of righteousness, which is received by the resurrected
and transformed made incorruptible and immortal, or deathless, by "the Lord the Spirit."
Here, then, is a New Man created by the Spirit, who is the rival and deadly enemy of the Old Man, generated of blood, of the will of the flesh, and of the will of man. The germ of the New Man is the ideas of God. These ideas are aggregated in what Peter terms "the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord." If A.B. have this knowledge in him, God's seed is in him; "The Word of the Kingdom" is there; he knows the True One, and his knowledge leads him into the True One -- into His Son Jesus the Anointed; and he comes to know that "this is the true God, and the life of the Aion."
Conflict Between Flesh and Spirit
When A.B. knows God, and Jesus the Anointed, apostolized, or sent; in other words, when he has believed into the true God, in believing the gospel of the Kingdom, and obeying it; in the act of obedience, styled by Peter "the obeying of the truth," he puts off the Old Man of the Flesh with his deeds, and puts on the New Man of the Spirit. He is still A.B.; but he is no longer A.B. invested with fig-leaf devices. He is A.B. in a new character. Instead of thinking with the Old Man in his wickedness and folly he thinks with the Spirit. That is, God's thoughts and ways have become his. He understands, believes, and loves what God has spoken by His Spirit in the prophets in Jesus, and in the apostles; so that this thinking is now no longer "the thinking of the flesh," which is always wrong, when speculating upon divine things; but "the thinking of the Spirit," which is always right, so long as the seed of God abideth in him.
Here, then, are two men, each of whom set up rival claims to A.B. -- The Old Man of Sin's Flesh, or the Devil; and the New Man, the Spirit, or the likeness of the Image of God. The likeness is Jesus Christ in A.B. dwelling in his heart by faith working by love of the truth (Eph. 3:17; 2 Cor. 13:5; Gal. 2:20; 5:6). It is "A New Creature," or creation within him; and upon whom the Old Man of the Flesh is incessantly seeking to impose the yoke of his traditions. Being a great theologian and philosopher, he is ever labouring to bring the New Man into bondage, and to turn him from "the simplicity which is in Christ." For this purpose he sets Moses against Jesus, prophet against prophet, Old Testament against New, and the New against the Old; puts them into his crucibles, for he is a great alchemist, and transmutes them into Rationalism, Transcendentalism, Natural Religion--into anything, in short, to suit the occasion and the times -- and dignifies them with the titles of philosophy, science,
and "the higher law." But the New Man of the Spirit is free, looking searchingly into the perfect law of liberty, and having no respect to "the philosophy and empty delusion," and antitheses of gnosis, or "oppositions of science," falsely so called, in which the flesh delights. He troubles not himself about Trinitarianism, or Antitrinitarianism, Unitarianism, Arianism, or Socinianism. He has no more deference for these than for any other of "the works of the Devil," or for the Old Man himself. He does not commune with him in the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ, whom He has sent, The Old Man judges after the flesh; the New Man after the Spirit, in Moses and the prophets, among whom are included John the immerser, Jesus, and the apostles. The spirit of the Old Man is the spirit that exhales from the flesh, and is known as the "nervous fluid," "animal magnetism," "vital electricity" and so forth. It is secreted from the blood by the secerning system of vessels and membranes, supplied with the raw material by the process of digestion and respiration. This spirit of the Old Man of Sin's Flesh is the spirit which his disciples's say "accompanies the word, and applies it in the conversion of the soul." The word, or letter, saith this hyperbolical sinner (kath'huperbolen hamartolos) killeth, but the spirit giveth life; by which he means, that the simple word itself, the doctrine, the testimony, and the commandments of Jehovah, are not perfect, converting the sou!; are not sure, making wise the foolish; are not pure, enlightening the eyes; but that what the Old Man or the Devil, calls "the spirit," is necessary to give them efficacy and power. "The Word," saith he "is a dead letter." True, it is dead as far as its ability to convert the devil is concerned; yea, and kills him, too. He feels this; and, therefore, speaks experimentally. This dead and devil-deadening word has power, nevertheless; for it never ceases to enrage him, especially when the New Man of the Spirit rejects the dogma of vitalizing the idea words of God, by the animal magnetism of the flesh, as blasphemy.
The New Man of the Spirit is the mental likeness of God in Christ photographed, so to speak, on the fleshly table or sensorium of A.B., by the Holy Scriptures, "which," as Paul says, "are able to make wise to salvation, through faith, which is by the anointed Jesus." It is only the A.B.'s thus enlightened that are "taught of God," and know Him. None else are made alive by the Spirit; and, consequently, none others "know God"; for He, and all the deep things pertaining to Him, are "spiritually discerned."
Furthermore, the high importance of this great subject, that, namely, of knowing the true God understandingly, is manifest from the magnitude of the evil consequent upon not understanding Him. Thus, in writing to the Thessalonians, Paul testifies,
that the Lord Jesus shall be apocalypsed or revealed from heaven; and that in that apocalypse he will inflict condign punishment upon them "who know not God," and who obey not the Gospel of Jesus the Anointed. Surely here is incentive powerful enough to induce A.B. to study God's revelation of Himself, and to obey the unadulterated word of the kingdom. Is A.B. wise? Is he mighty? Is he rich? Then thus saith Jehovah to him: "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I, Jehovah, do exercise mercy, judgment, and righteousness on the earth; for in these I delight, saith Jehovah."
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