David was a fighting king, and his "reign was a series of trials and triumphs." He not only subdued the Philistines, but conquered Damascus, Moab, Ammon, and Edom, and so extended his territory from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates that it embraced ten times as much as Saul ruled over. But his heart was made sad by the shameful misconduct of Amnon, followed by his death, and by the conspiracy of Absalom, the rebellion following, and the death of this beautiful son. "The story of David's hasty flight from Jerusalem over Olivet and across the Jordan to escape from Absalom is touchingly sad. 'And David went up by the ascent of the Mount of Olives, and wept as he went up, and he had his head covered, and went barefoot.' Then what a picture of paternal love, which the basest filial ingratitude could not quench, is that of David mourning the death of Absalom, 'The king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O, my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!'" After finishing out a reign of forty years, "the sweet singer of Israel" "slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David."
His son Solomon succeeded him on the throne, and had a peaceful reign of forty years, during which time the Temple on Mount Moriah was erected, being the greatest work of his reign. David had accumulated much material for this house; Hiram, king of Tyre, furnished cedar timber from the Lebanon mountains, and skilled workmen put up the building, into which the Ark of the Covenant was borne. This famous structure was not remarkable for its great size, but for the splendid manner in which it was adorned with gold and other expensive materials. Israel's wisest monarch was a man of letters, being the author of three thousand proverbs and a thousand and five songs. His wisdom exceeded that of all his contemporaries, "and all the earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart." A case in point is the visit of the Queen of Sheba, who said: "The half was not told me; thy wisdom and prosperity exceed the fame which I heard." But the glory of his kingdom did not last long. "It dazzled for a brief space, like the blaze of a meteor, and then vanished away." Nehemiah says there was no king like him, "nevertheless even him did foreign women cause to sin."
Solomon's reign ended about 975 B C., and his son, Rehoboam, was coronated at Shechem. Jereboam, the son of Nebat, whose name is proverbial for wickedness, returned from Egypt, whence he had fled from Solomon, and asked the new king to make the grievous service of his father lighter, promising to support him on that condition. Rehoboam counseled "with the old men, that had stood before Solomon," and refused their words, accepting the counsel of the young men that had grown up with him. When he announced that he would make the yoke of his father heavier, the ten northern tribes revolted, and Jereboam became king of what is afterwards known as the house of Israel. The kingdom lasted about two hundred and fifty years, being ruled over by nineteen kings, but the government did not run smoothly. "Plot after plot was formed, and first one adventurer and then another seized the throne." Besides the internal troubles, there were numerous wars. Benhadad, of Damascus, besieged Samaria; Hazael, king of Syria, overran the land east of the Jordan; Moab rebelled; Pul (Tiglath-pileser), king of Assyria, invaded the country, and carried off a large amount of tribute, probably amounting to two millions of dollars; and thirty years later he entered the land and carried away many captives. At a later date the people became idolatrous, and Shalmaneser, an Assyrian king, reduced them to subjection, and carried numbers of them into Assyria, and replaced them with men from Babylon and other places. By the intermarriage of Jews remaining in the country with these foreigners a mixed race, called Samaritans, sprang up.
The southern section of the country, known as the kingdom of Judah, was ruled over by nineteen kings and one queen for a period of about three hundred and seventy-five years. Asa, one of the good kings, was a religious reformer—even "his mother he removed from being queen, because she had made an abominable image for an Asherah; and Asa cut down her image and burnt it at the brook Kidron." But he, like many other reformers, failed to make his work thorough, for "the high places were not taken away: nevertheless the heart of Asa was perfect with Jehovah all his days." Joash caused a chest to be placed "at the gate of the house of Jehovah," into which the people put "the tax that Moses, the servant of God, laid upon Israel in the wilderness," until they had gathered an abundance of money, with which the house of God was repaired, for the wicked sons of Athaliah had broken it up and bestowed the dedicated things upon the Baalim. But after the death of Jehoida, the priest, Joash was himself led into idolatry, and when Zechariah, the son of Jehoida, rebuked the people for turning from God, they stoned him to death by the order of King Joash. The last words of the dying martyr were: "The Lord look upon it and require it." This is strangely different from the last expression of Stephen, who "kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." Amaziah returned "from the slaughter of the Edomites," and set up the gods of the idolatrous enemies he had whipped, "to be his gods." Ahaz was a wicked idolater, worshiping Baal and sacrificing his own sons.
In strong contrast with such men as these we have the name of Hezekiah, whose prosperous reign was a grand period of reformation and improvement. He was twenty-five years old when he came on the throne, and in the twenty-nine years he ruled, "he removed the high places, and brake the pillars, and cut down the Asherah." The brazen serpent, made by Moses in the wilderness, had become an object of worship, but Hezekiah called it "a piece of brass," and broke it in pieces. The passover had not been kept "in great numbers in such sort as it is written," so Hezekiah sent messengers from city to city to call the people to observe the passover. Some "laughed them to scorn, and mocked them," but others "humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem," and in the second month the "very great assembly * * * killed the passover. * * * So there was great joy in Jerusalem; for since the time of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel, there was not the like in Jerusalem."
Manasseh, the next king, reestablished idolatry, and his son Amon, who ruled but two years, followed in his footsteps. Josiah, who next occupied the throne, was a different kind of a man. "He did that which was right in the eyes of Jehovah, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left." In his reign, Hilkiah the priest found the book of the law in the temple, and delivered it to Shaphan the scribe, who read it, and took it to the king and read it to him. "And it came to pass when the king heard the words of the book of the law, that he rent his clothes," and commanded that inquiry be made of the Lord concerning the contents of the book. As a result, the temple was cleansed of the vessels that had been used in Baal worship, the idolatrous priests were put down, the "houses of the sodomites," that were in the house of Jehovah, were broken down, the high places erected by Solomon were defiled, and a great reformation was worked.
Zedekiah was the last king in the line. In his day, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, invaded the land, and besieged Jerusalem for sixteen months, reducing the people to such straits that women ate the flesh of their own children. When the city fell, a portion of the inhabitants were carried to Babylon, and the furnishings of the temple were taken away as plunder. Zedekiah, with his family, sought to escape, going out over Olivet as David in his distress had done, but he was captured and carried to Riblah, thirty-five miles north of Baalbec, where his sons were slain in his presence. Then his eyes were put out, and he was carried to Babylon. In this way were fulfilled the two prophecies, that he should be taken to Babylon, and that he should not see it.
Thus, with Jerusalem a mass of desolate, forsaken ruins, the Babylonian period was ushered in. Some of the captives rose to positions of trust in the Babylonian government. Daniel and his three associates are examples. During this period Ezekiel was a prophet. No doubt the frame of mind of most of them is well expressed by the Psalmist: "By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea we wept when we remembered Zion. Upon the willows in the midst thereof we hanged up our harps."
The Medo-Persian period began with the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus, who brought the Jews under his rule. The captives were permitted to return to Palestine, and Zerubbabel soon had the foundations of the temple laid; but here the work came to a standstill, and so remained for seventeen years. About 520 B.C., when Darius was king of Persia, the work was resumed, and carried on to completion. For some years the service of God seems to have been conducted in an unbecoming manner. Nehemiah came upon the stage of action, rebuilt the city walls, required the observance of the Sabbath, and served as governor twelve years without pay. Ezra brought back a large number of the people, repaired the temple, and worked a great reformation. Under his influence, those who had married foreign wives put them away, and "some had wives by whom they had children." As the Samaritans were not allowed to help build the temple, they erected one of their own on Mt Gerizim. A few Samaritans still exist in Nablus, and hold services on Gerizim. "After Nehemiah, the office of civil ruler seems to have become extinct."
The Greek period begins with the operations of Alexander the Great in Asia, 333 B.C., and extends to the time of the Maccabees, 168 B.C. After Alexander's death, his empire fell into the two great divisions of Egypt and Syria. The Egyptian rulers were called Ptolemies, and those of Syria were called the Selucidae. For one hundred and twenty-five years Palestine was held by Egypt, during which time Ptolemy Philadelphus had the Septuagint version of the Old Testament made at Alexandria. Syria next secured control of Palestine. The walls of Jerusalem were destroyed, and the altar of Jehovah was polluted with swine's flesh. We now hear of an aged priest named Mattathias, who at Modin, a few miles from Jerusalem, had the courage to kill a Jew who was about to sacrifice on a heathen altar. He escaped to the mountains, where he was joined by a number of others of the same mind. His death soon came, but he left five stalwart sons like himself. Judas, called Maccabeus, became the leader, and from him the whole family was named the Maccabees. He began war against the Syrians and apostate Jews. The Syrians, numbering fifty thousand, took up a position at Emmaus, while the Maccabees encamped at Mizpah. Although greatly outnumbered, they were victorious, as they were in another engagement with sixty thousand Syrians at Hebron. Judas entered Jerusalem, and repaired and cleansed the temple. Thus the Maccabean period was ushered in. After some further fighting, Judas was slain, and Simon, the only surviving brother, succeeded him, and Jerusalem was practically independent. His son, John Hyrcanus, was the next ruler. The Pharisees and Sadducees now come prominently into Jewish affairs. The Essenes also existed at this time, and dressed in white. After some time (between 65-62 B.C.), Pompey, the Roman general, entered the open gates of the city, but did not capture the citadel for three weeks, finally taking advantage of the day of Pentecost, when the Jews would not fight. The Roman period began with the slaughter of twelve thousand citizens. Priests were slain at the altar, and the temple was profaned. Judaea became a Roman province, and was compelled to pay tribute.
Herod the Great became governor of Galilee, and later the Roman senate made him king of Judaea. He besieged Jerusalem, and took it in 37 B.C. "A singular compound of good and bad—mostly bad—was this King Herod." He hired men to drown a supposed rival, as if in sport, at Jericho on the occasion of a feast, and in the beginning of his reign he slaughtered more than half of the members of the Sanhedrin. The aged high priest Hyrcanus was put to death, as was also Mariamne, the wife of this monster, who was ruling when the Messiah was born at Bethlehem. Herod was a great builder, and it was he who reconstructed the temple on magnificent lines. He also built Caesarea, and rebuilt Samaria. After his death, the country was divided and ruled by his three sons. Achelaus reigned ingloriously in Jerusalem for ten years, and was banished. Judaea was then ruled by procurators, Pilate being the fifth one of them, ruling from A.D. 26-36. In the year A.D. 65 the Jews rebelled against the Romans, after being their subjects for one hundred and twenty-two years. They were not subdued until the terrible destruction of the Holy City in A.D. 70, when, according to Josephus, one million one hundred thousand Jews perished in the siege, two hundred and fifty-six thousand four hundred and fifty were slain elsewhere, and one hundred and one thousand seven hundred prisoners were sold into bondage. The Temple was completely destroyed along with the city, which for sixty years "lay in ruins so complete that it is doubtful whether there was a single house that could be used as a residence." The land was annexed to Syria, and ceased to be a Jewish country. Hadrian became emperor in A.D. 117, and issued an edict forbidding the Jews to practice circumcision, read the law, or to observe the Sabbath. These things greatly distressed the Jews, and in A.D. 132 they rallied to the standard of Bar Cochba, who has been styled "the last and greatest of the false Messiahs." The Romans were overthrown, Bar Cochba proclaimed himself king in Jerusalem, and carried on the war for two years. At one time he held fifty towns, but they were all taken from him, and he was finally killed at Bether, or Bittir. This was the last effort of the Jews to recover the land by force of arms. Hadrian caused the site of the temple to be plowed over, and the city was reconstructed being made thoroughly pagan. For two hundred years the Jews were forbidden to enter it. In A.D. 326 the Empress Helena visited Jerusalem, and built a church on the Mount of Olives. Julian the Apostate undertook to rebuild the Jewish temple in A.D. 362, but was frustrated by "balls of fire" issuing from under the ruins and frightening the workmen. In A.D. 529 the Greek emperor Justinian built a church in the city in honor of the Virgin. The Persians under Chosroes II. invaded Palestine in A.D. 614 and destroyed part of Jerusalem. After fourteen years they were defeated and Jerusalem was restored, but the Mohammedans under Omar captured it in A.D. 637. The structure called the Dome of the Rock, on Mt. Moriah, was built by them in A.D. 688.
The Crusades next engage our attention. The first of these military expeditions was made to secure the right to visit the Holy Sepulcher. It was commenced at the call of the Pope in 1096. A force of two hundred and seventy-five thousand men began the march, but never entered Palestine. Another effort was made by six hundred thousand men, who captured Antioch in 1098. A little later the survivors defeated the Mohammedan army of two hundred thousand. Still later they entered Jerusalem, and Godfrey of Bouillon was made king of the city in 1099. By conquest he came to rule the whole of Palestine. The orders of Knights Hospitallers and Knights Templars were formed, and Godfrey continued in power about fifty years. In 1144 two European armies, aggregating one million two hundred thousand men, started on the second crusade, which was a total failure. Saladin, the Sultan of Egypt, conquered Jerusalem in 1187, and the third crusade was inaugurated, which resulted in securing the right to make pilgrimages to Jerusalem free from taxes. The power of the Crusaders was now broken. Another band assembled at Venice in 1203 to undertake the fourth crusade, but they never entered Palestine. The fifth effort was made, and Frederick, Emperor of Germany, crowned himself king of Jerusalem in 1229, and returned to his native land the next year. The Turks conquered Palestine in 1244 and burned Jerusalem. Louis IX. of France led the seventh crusade, another failure, in 1248. He undertook it again in 1270, but went to Africa, and Prince Edward of England entered Palestine in 1271 and accepted a truce for ten years, which was offered by the Sultan of Egypt. This, the eighth and last crusade, ended in 1272 by the return of Edward to England. In 1280 Palestine was invaded by the Mamelukes, and in 1291 the war of the Crusaders ended with the fall of Acre, "the last Christian possession in Palestine." Besides these efforts there were children's crusades for the conversion or conquest of the Moslems. The first, in 1212, was composed of thirty thousand boys. Two ship loads were drowned and the third was sold as slaves to the Mohammedans.
In 1517 the country passed to the control of the Ottoman Empire, and so remained until 1832, when it fell back to Egypt for eight years. The present walls around Jerusalem, which inclose two hundred and ten acres of ground, were built by Suleiman the Magnificent in 1542. In 1840 Palestine again became Turkish territory, and so continues to this day. The really scientific exploration of the land began with the journey of Edward Robinson, an American, in 1838. In 1856 the United States Consulate was established in Jerusalem, and twelve governments are now represented by consulates. Sir Charles Wilson created an interest in the geography of Palestine by his survey of Jerusalem and his travels in the Holy Land from 1864 to 1868. Palestine was surveyed from Dan to Beer-sheba and from the Jordan to the Great Sea in the years from 1872 to 1877. The Siloam inscription, the "only known relic of the writing * * * of Hezekiah's days," was discovered in 1880. The railroad from Jaffa to Jerusalem was opened in 1892. Within the last ten years several carriage roads have been built. Protestant schools and missions have been established at many important places. The population of the city is now about fifty-five thousand souls, but they do not all live inside of the walls. What the future of Palestine may be is an interesting subject for thought.
CHURCHES OF CHRIST IN GREAT BRITAIN.
No doubt many of my readers will be specially interested in knowing something of my experience and association with the brethren across the sea, and it is my desire to give them as fair an understanding of the situation as I can. There are five congregations in Glasgow, having a membership of six hundred and seventy-eight persons. The oldest one of these, which formerly met in Brown Street and now meets in Shawlands Hall, was formed in 1839, and has one hundred and sixty-one members. The Coplaw Street congregation, which branched from Brown Street, and is now the largest of the five, dates back to 1878, and numbers two hundred and nineteen. It was my privilege to attend one of the mid-week services of this congregation and speak to those present on that occasion. I also met some of the brethren in Edinburgh, where two congregations have a membership of two hundred and fifty-three. At Kirkcaldy, the home of my worthy friend and brother, Ivie Campbell, Jr., there is a congregation of one hundred and seventy disciples, which I addressed one Lord's day morning. In the evening I went out with Brother and Sister Campbell and another brother to Coaltown of Balgonie, and addressed the little band worshiping at that place.
My next association with the brethren was at the annual meeting of "Churches of Christ in Great Britain and Ireland," convened at Wigan, England, August second, third, and fourth. While at Wigan I went out to Platt Bridge and spoke to the brethren. There are ninety members in this congregation. One night in Birmingham I met with the brethren in Charles Henry Street, where the congregation, formed in 1857, numbers two hundred and seventy-four, and the next night I was with the Geach Street congregation, which has been in existence since 1865, and numbers two hundred and twenty-nine members. Bro. Samuel Joynes, now of Philadelphia, was formerly connected with this congregation. While I was in Bristol it was my pleasure to meet with the Thrissell Street church, composed of one hundred and thirty-one members. I spoke once in their place of worship and once in a meeting on the street. The last band of brethren I was with while in England was the church at Twynholm, London. This is the largest congregation of all, and will receive consideration later in the chapter. The next place that I broke bread was in a little mission to the Jews in the Holy City. To complete a report of my public speaking while away, I will add that I preached in Mr. Thompson's tabernacle in Jerusalem, and spoke a few words on one or both of the Lord's days at the mission to which reference has already been made. I also spoke in a mission meeting conducted by Mr. Locke at Port Said, Egypt, preached once on the ship as I was coming back across the Atlantic, and took part in a little debate on shipboard as I went out on the journey, and in an entertainment the night before I got back to New York.
In this chapter I am taking my statistics mainly from the Year Book containing the fifty-ninth annual report of the churches in Great Britain and Ireland co-operating for evangelistic purposes, embracing almost all of the congregations of disciples in the country. According to this report, there were one hundred and eighty-three congregations on the list, with a total membership of thirteen thousand and sixty-three, at the time of the annual meeting last year.
(Since writing this chapter, the sixtieth annual report of these brethren across the sea has come into my hands, and the items in this paragraph are taken mainly from the address of Bro. John Wyckliffe Black, as chairman of the annual meeting which assembled in August of this year at Leeds. The membership is now reported at thirteen thousand eight hundred and forty-four, an increase of about eight hundred members since the meeting held at Wigan in 1904. In 1842 the British brotherhood numbered thirteen hundred, and in 1862 it had more than doubled. After the lapse of another period of twenty years, the number had more than doubled again, standing at six thousand six hundred and thirty-two. In 1902, when twenty years more had passed, the membership had almost doubled again, having grown to twelve thousand five hundred and thirty-seven. In 1842 the average number of members in each congregation was thirty-one; in 1862 it was forty; in 1882 it had reached sixty-one; and in 1902 it was seventy-two. The average number in each congregation is now somewhat higher than it was in 1902.)
Soon after the meeting was convened on Tuesday, "the Conference recognised the presence of Mrs. Hall and Miss Jean Hall, of Sydney, N.S.W., and Brother Don Carlos Janes, from Ohio, U.S.A., and cordially gave them a Christian welcome." The address of welcome and the address of the chairman, Brother James Anderson, of Fauldhouse, Scotland, came early in the day. The meeting on Wednesday opened with worship and a short address, followed by reports from the General Sunday-school, Reference, General Training, and Magazine Committees. One interesting feature of the proceedings of this day was the conference paper by Bro. T.J. Ainsworth on the subject of "The Relation of Christianity to the Social Questions of the Day." Besides a discussion of this paper, there was a preaching service at night. Thursday, the last day of the meeting, was occupied, after the morning worship and short address, with the reports of committees and the appointment of committees. At the social meeting at night several brethren, who had been previously selected, spoke on such subjects as seemed good to them. Bro. W.A. Kemp, of Melbourne, Australia, and the writer were the only speakers not residents of the British Isles. At the close of the meeting the following beautiful hymn was sung to the tune of "Auld Lang Syne":
Hail, sweetest, dearest tie, that binds Our glowing hearts in one; Hail, sacred hope, that tunes our minds To harmony divine. It is the hope, the blissful hope Which Jesus' words afford— The hope, when days and years are past, Of life with Christ the Lord.
What though the northern wintry blast Shall howl around our cot? What though beneath an eastern sun Be cast our distant lot? Yet still we share the blissful hope His cheering words afford— The hope, when days and years are past, Of glory with the Lord.
From Burmah's shores, from Afric's strand, From India's burning plain, From Europe, from Columbia's land, We hope to meet again. Oh, sweetest hope, oh, blissful hope, Which His own truth affords— The hope, when days and years are past, We still shall be the Lord's.
No lingering look, no parting sigh, Our future meeting knows; There friendship beams from every eye, And love immortal glows. Oh, sacred hope, the blissful hope, His love and truth afford— The hope, when days and years are past, Of reigning with the Lord.
I am not willing to accept everything done in the annual meeting, but the hearty good will manifested and the pleasant and happy associations enjoyed make it in those respects very commendable. These brethren are very systematic and orderly in their work. Some one, who has been designated beforehand, takes charge of the meeting, and everything moves along nicely. When a visiting brother comes in, he is recognized and made use of, but they do not turn the meeting over to him and depend upon him to conduct it. The president of the Lord's day morning meeting and part or all of the officers sit together on the platform. The following is the order of procedure in one of the meetings which I attended: After singing a hymn and offering prayer, the brother presiding announced the reading lessons from both Testaments, at the same time naming two brethren who would read these scriptures. After they had come forward and read the lessons before the church, another hymn was sung, and certain definite objects of prayer were mentioned before the congregation again engaged in that part of the worship. Two prayers were offered, followed by the announcements, after which a brother delivered an address. Then the president made mention of the visitors present, and an old gentleman from the platform extended "the right hand of fellowship" to some new members before the contribution was taken and the Lord's supper observed, a hymn being sung between these two items. A concluding hymn and prayer closed the service, which had been well conducted, without discord or confusion.
A brother in Wigan gave me a statement of the work of one of the congregations there in the winter season. On the Lord's day they have school at 9:20 A.M. and at 2 P.M.; breaking the bread at 10:30 A.M., and preaching the gospel at 6:30 P.M. At this evening meeting the Lord's table is again spread for the benefit of servants and others who were not able to be at the morning service. This is a common practice. The young people's social and improvement class meets on Monday evening, a meeting for prayer and a short address is held on Tuesday evening, and the Band of Hope, a temperance organization for young people, meets on Wednesday evening. The singing class uses Thursday night, and the officers of the church sometimes have a meeting on Friday night.
During the life of Bro. Timothy Coop much money was spent in an effort to build up along the lines adopted by the innovators here in America. Bro. Coop visited this country, and was well pleased with the operations of the congregations that had adopted the modern methods, and he was instrumental in having some American evangelists to go to England, and a few churches were started. I was told that there are about a dozen congregations of these disciples, called "American brethren" by the other English disciples, with a membership of about two thousand, and that it is a waning cause.
The rank and file of these British brethren are more conservative than the innovators here at home, but they have moved forward somewhat in advance of the churches here contending for apostolic simplicity in certain particulars. A few of the congregations use a musical instrument in gospel meetings and Sunday-school services, and some have organizations such as the Band of Hope and the Dorcas Society. The organization of the annual meeting is said to be only advisory. The following lines, a portion of a resolution of the annual meeting of 1861 will help the reader to form an idea of the purpose and nature of the organization: "That this Cooeperation shall embrace such of the Churches contending for the primitive faith and order as shall willingly be placed upon the list of Churches printed in its Annual Report. That the Churches thus cooeperating disavow any intention or desire to recognize themselves as a denomination, or to limit their fellowship to the Churches thus cooeperating; but, on the contrary, they avow it both a duty and a pleasure to visit, receive, and cooeperate with Christian Churches, without reference to their taking part in the meetings and efforts of this Cooeperation. Also, that this Cooeperation has for its object evangelization only, and disclaims all power to settle matters of discipline, or differences between brethren or Churches; that if in any instance it should see fit to refuse to insert in or to remove from the List any Church or company of persons claiming to be a Church, it shall do so only in reference to this Cooeperation, leaving each and every Church to judge for itself, and to recognize and fellowship as it may understand the law of the Lord to require."
The question of delegate voting with a view to making the action of the annual meeting more weighty with the congregations was discussed at the Wigan meeting, but was voted down, although it had numerous advocates. One of the brethren, in speaking of the use of instrumental music in the singing, said they try not to use it when they worship the Lord, but I consider the use they make of it is unscriptural, and it puts the church in great danger of having the innovation thrust into all the services at some future time. All of these churches could learn a valuable lesson from some of our home congregations that have been rent asunder by the unholy advocacy of innovations.
But there are some very commendable things about these brethren. I noticed careful attention being given to the public reading of the Scriptures, and the congregation joins heartily in the singing. I am informed that every member takes part in the contribution without exception. They do not take contributions from visitors and children who are not disciples. The talent in the congregation is well developed. In this they are far ahead of us. While there are not many giving their whole time to evangelistic work, there are many who are acceptable speakers. One brother said they probably have a preacher for each twenty-five members. Men heavily involved in business take time to attend the meetings. For instance, one brother, who is at the head of a factory employing about a thousand people, and is interested in mining and in the manufacture of brick besides, is an active member of the congregation with which he worships. The brethren in general are faithful in the matter of being present at the breaking of bread. When visiting brethren come in, they are given a public welcome, and are sometimes pointed out to the congregation. Also, when brethren return from a vacation or other prolonged absence, they are given a welcome.
They pray much. The week-night meeting for prayer and study of the Bible is largely taken up with prayer. I like the way they point out definite objects of prayer. For instance, two sisters are leaving for Canada; some one is out of employment, and some have lost friends by death. These matters are mentioned, and some one is called on to lead the prayer, and these points are included in his petition to the Lord. Sometimes but one brother is asked to lead in prayer; sometimes more than one are designated, and at other times they leave it open for some one to volunteer. The following hymn was sung in one of these meetings which I attended:
LET US PRAY.
Come, let us pray; 'tis sweet to feel That God himself is near; That, while we at his footstool kneel, His mercy deigns to hear; Though sorrows crowd life's dreary way, This is our solace—let us pray.
Come, let us pray; the burning brow, The heart oppressed with care, And all the woes that throng us now, May be relieved by prayer; Jesus can smile our griefs away; Oh, glorious thought! come, let us pray.
Come, let us pray; the mercy-seat Invites the fervent prayer, And Jesus ready stands to greet The contrite spirit there; Oh, loiter not, nor longer stay From him who loves us; let us pray.
They do not publish as many papers as we do, but have one weekly journal, the Bible Advocate, edited by Bro. L. Oliver, of Birmingham, which has a general circulation, reaching almost four thousand copies. One feature of the paper last summer was the publication of the Life of Elder John Smith as a serial. The colored covers of the Bible Advocate contain a long list of the hours and places of worship of congregations in different parts of the country, and even outside of the British Isles in some cases. In some instances the local congregation publishes a paper of its own, affording a good medium through which to advertise the meetings and to keep distant brethren informed of the work that is being done, as well as to teach the truth of God.
A book room is maintained in Birmingham, where the British and American publications may be purchased. They were using a hymn-book (words only) of their own and a tune-book published by others, but a new hymnbook was under consideration when I was among them last year. A list of isolated members is kept, and persons elected by the annual meeting conduct a correspondence with these brethren. The following are extracts from some of the letters received in reply to those that had been sent out: "I am hoping that the day will come when I can leave this district and get to one where I can have the fellowship of my brethren; but meanwhile I am glad and thankful to be held in remembrance of my brethren and to be on your list, and I pray God to help your work, for I have still hope in Him, and know He has not given me up." Another brother says: "Though I can not say that I have anything important or cheering to write, yet I can say that I am rejoicing in the salvation of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. My isolation from regular church fellowship has been so long that I have almost given up the hope of enjoying it again in Arbroath; but still my prayer is that the Lord would raise up some here or send some here who know the truth, and who love the Lord with their whole heart, and would be able and willing to declare unto the people the whole counsel of God concerning the way of salvation." A Sisters' Conference was held in connection with the annual meeting, and a Temperance Conference and Meeting was held on Monday before the annual meeting opened.
Missionary work is being carried on in Burmah, Siam, and South Africa. In Burmah some attention has been given to translating and publishing a part of the Psalms in one of the languages of that country. "Much time has been spent in the villages by systematic visitation, by the distribution of literature, and by seizing upon any and every opportunity of speaking to the people. Street meetings have been constantly held, visitors received on the boat, the gospel preached from the Mission-boat to the people sitting on the banks of the river, and also proclaimed to the people in their homes, in the villages, and in the fields, and on the fishing stations. Although there were but two baptisms during the year the congregation numbers fifty-one." The brethren in Siam were working where the rivers, numerous canals, and creeks form the chief roadways. The Year Book contains the following concerning the medical missionary in this field: "His chief work during the year has been rendering such help as his short medical training has fitted him to give. For a time twelve to twenty patients a day came to him for treatment. After a while the numbers fell off, he thought because all the sick in the neighborhood had been cured." "The little church in Nakon Choom * * * now consists of two Karens, one Burman, one Mon, two Chinamen, and two Englishmen. As several of these do not understand the others' language, the gift of tongues would seem not undesirable." In South Africa there are congregations at Johannesburg, Pretoria, Bulawayo, Cape Town, and Carolina. The church in Bulawayo numbers about fifty members, nearly all of whom are natives "who are eager learners."
I saw more of the workings of the church at Twynholm than any other congregation visited, as I stayed at Twynholm House while in London both on the outward trip and as I returned home. Of the seven congregations in this city, Twynholm is the largest, and is the largest in the British brotherhood, having a membership of above five hundred. This church was established in 1894 with twenty-five members, and has had a good growth. They open the baptistery every Lord's day night, and very frequently have occasion to use it. There were fifty-three baptisms last year, and twenty-one others were added to the membership of the church. At the close of a recent church year the Band of Hope numbered five hundred and fifteen, and the Lord's day school had twelve hundred and fifty pupils and one hundred and two teachers. I think it was one hundred and sixty little tots I saw in one room, and down in this basement there were about fifty more. I was told that there were more children attending than they had accommodation for, but they disliked to turn any of them away. The Woman's Meeting had one hundred and sixteen members; the Total Abstinence Society, one hundred and fifty; and the membership of the Youths' Institute and Bible Students' Class were not given. Five thousand copies of Joyful Tidings, an eight-page paper, are given away each month. The following announcement from the first page of this paper will indicate something of the activities of this congregation:
CHURCH OF CHRIST,
Twynholm Assembly Hall, Fulham Cross, S.W.
REGULAR SERVICES AND GATHERINGS.
LORD'S DAY. 9:45 A.M.—Bible Students' Class. 11:00 A.M.—Divine Worship and "The Breaking of Bread". (Acts 2:42, etc.) 2:45 P.M.—Lord's Day Schools. 3:00 P.M.—Young Men's Institute. 4:00 P.M.—Teachers' Prayer Meeting (first Lord's day in the month). 6:30 P.M.—Evangelistic Service. 7:45 P.M.—Believers' Immersion (usually). 8:10 P.M.—"The Breaking of Bread" (Continued).
MONDAY. 2:30 P.M.—Woman's Own Meeting. 7:00 P.M.—Band of Hope. 8:30 P.M.—Social Gathering for Young People (over fourteen). 8:30 P.M.—Total Abstinence Society (last Monday night in the month).
THURSDAY. 8:00 P.M.—Mid-week Service for Prayer, Praise, and Public Exposition of the Word. 9:00 P.M.—Singing Practice.
FRIDAY. 8:00 P.M.—Teachers' Preparation Class and Devotional Meeting. (Open to all).
Seat all Free and Unappropriated. No Public Collections. Hymn-books provided for Visitors.
This Church of Christ earnestly pleads for the complete restoration of the primitive Christianity of the New Testament, for the cultivation of personal piety, and benevolence, and for loving service for Jesus the Christ.
Twynholm is the name given to a piece of property, originally intended for a hotel, situated in the western part of London, at the intersection of four streets in Fulham Cross. These streets make it a place easily reached, and the numerous saloons make the necessity for such an influence as emanates from a church of God very great. There is a good, commodious audience-room at the rear, and several smaller rooms about the premises. The front part is owned and controlled by a brother who has a family of Christians to live there and run the restaurant on the first floor and the lodging rooms on the two upper floors, where there are accommodations for a few young men. Here I had a desirable room, and was well cared for by the brother and sister who manage the house. The restaurant is not run for profit, but to afford the people a place to eat cheaply and to spend time without going where intoxicants are sold. The patrons are allowed to sit at the tables and play such games as dominoes, the aim being to counteract the evil influences of that part of the city as far as possible. One night I attended a meeting of the Band of Hope in a big basement room at Twynholm, where a large number of small children were being taught to pray, and were receiving good instruction along the line of temperance. Several older persons were on duty to preserve order among these children, many of whom had doubtless come from homes where little about order and good behavior is ever taught. Soon after this meeting I went up on the street, and there, near a saloon with six visible entrances, a street musician was playing his organ, while small girls, perhaps not yet in their teens, were being encouraged to dance.
At Twynholm I also attended the Social Hour meeting, which was an enjoyable affair. A program of recitations, songs, etc., was rendered. This also, I suppose, is to offset some of the evil agencies of the great city and keep the young people under good influences. The Woman's Meeting convenes on Monday afternoon. The leaders of the meeting are ladies of the church, who are laboring for the betterment of an inferior class of London women. I spoke before this meeting, by request, and was, so far as I now recollect, the only male person present. It is the custom to use the instrument in connection with the singing in this meeting, but I asked them to refrain on this occasion. An orphans' home is also conducted, having members of this congregation as its managers. It is a very busy church, and for being busy and diligent it is to be commended, but I believe there is too much organization. But here, as elsewhere in Britain, there are many very commendable things about the brethren. I have already spoken of system in their proceedings. They outline their work for a given period of time, specifying the Scriptures to be read, the leaders of the meetings, and who is to preach on each Lord's day night. Then, for the sake of convenience, these schedules are printed, and they are carefully followed. This is far ahead of the haphazard method, or lack of method, at home, where brethren sometimes come together neither knowing what the lesson will be nor who will conduct the meeting.
Whatever may be the faults of these disciples in the old country, it must be said to their credit that they are kind and hospitable to strangers, and make a visiting brother welcome. The talent in their congregations is better developed than it is here, and their meetings are conducted in a more orderly and systematic manner. They are more faithful in the observance of the Lord's supper than many in this land. The percentage of preachers giving their whole time to the work is less than it is here, but the number who can and do take part in the public work of the church is proportionately larger than it is here.
I will now close this chapter and this volume with the address of Brother Anderson, chairman of the annual meeting held last year at Wigan:
DEAR BRETHREN:—In accepting the responsible and honorable position in which you have placed me, I do so conscious of a defect that I hope you will do your best to help and bear with. Please speak as distinctly as possible, so that I may hear what is said. There may be other defects that I might have helped, but please do your best to help me in this respect.
I heartily thank you for the honor conferred upon me. Whether I deserve it or not, I know that it is well meant on your part. We prefer honor to dishonor; but what one may count a great honor, another may lightly esteem. The point of view is almost everything in these matters; but if positions of honor in the kingdoms of the earth are lightly esteemed, positions of honor in the kingdom of God have a right to be esteemed more highly.
We are met in conference as subjects of the kingdom of God, as heirs of everlasting glory, having a hope greater than the world can give, and a peace that the world can neither give nor take away. To preside over such a gathering, met to consider the best means of spreading the Gospel of Christ among men, is a token of respect upon which I place a very high value. The fact that it came unexpectedly does not lessen the pleasure.
I know that you have not placed me here on account of my tact and business ability to manage this conference well. Had I possessed these qualities in a marked degree, you would no doubt have taken notice of them before this time. I know that you only wish to pay a token of respect to a plain old soldier before he lays aside his harness, and, brethren, I thank you for that.
For forty-four years I have enjoyed sweet and uninterrupted fellowship in this brotherhood. For over forty years my voice has been heard in the preaching of the Gospel of the Grace of God. For close on thirty years all my time has been given to the proclamation and defense of New Testament truth as held by us as a people. Every year has added strength to the conviction that God has led me to take my stand among the people who of all the people on the earth are making the best and most consistent effort to get back to the religion established by Christ and his apostles. I therefore bless the day that I became one of you.
Had our position been wrong, I have given myself every opportunity of knowing it. Circumstances have compelled me to examine our foundations again and again. I have been called upon to defend our faith, when attacked, times not a few. Whatever may be the effect that I have had upon others, my own confidence has been increased at every turn. To-day I am certain that if the New Testament is right, we can not be far wrong; and if the New Testament can not be trusted, there is an end to the whole matter. But the claims of Christ and the truth of the New Testament are matters upon which a doubt never rises. As years roll on, it becomes more easy to believe and harder to doubt. Knowledge, reason, and experience now supply such varied yet harmonious and converging lines of evidence that a doubt seems impossible. Difficulties we may have, and perhaps must have, as long as we live, but we can certainly rise above the fog land of doubt. Considering all this, it gives me more pleasure to preside over this gathering than over any other voluntary gathering on earth. It is a voluntary gathering. We do not profess to be here by Divine appointment. It is a meeting of heaven's freemen to consider the best means of advancing the will of God among men. While met, may we all act in a manner worthy of the great object which brings us together.
Faith, forbearance and watchfulness will be required as long as we live, if we wish to keep the unity of the faith in the bond of peace. All those who set out for a complete return to Jerusalem have not held on their way; some have gone a long way back and others are going. What has happened in other lands may happen here, unless we watch and are faithful. The more carefully we look into matters, we shall be the less inclined to move. Putting all God's arrangements faithfully and earnestly to the test, and comparing them with others, increases our faith in them. Faithfulness increases faith. This keeps growing upon you till you become certain that only God's means will accomplish God's ends. Sectarianism, tested by experience, is a failure.
The time was when our danger in departing from our simple plea of returning to the Bible alone lay in our being moved by clerical and sectarian influences. To the young in particular in the present day that can hardly be called our greatest danger. The influences at work to produce doubt in regard to the truth of the Bible were never so great as they are now. This used to be the particular work of professed infidels; now it is more largely the work of professed Christian scholars. If you wish to pass for a "scholar," you must not profess to believe the Old Testament. You must not say too much against the truth of that book, or you may be called in question, but you can go a good long way before there is much danger.
Jesus believed that old book to be the word of God. But he was not a "scholar." He was the son of a country joiner, and you must not expect him to rise too far above his environment. It surprises me that the "scholars" have not called more attention to the ignorance of Jesus in this respect. They will no doubt pay more attention to this later on; for as Christian "scholars" it becomes them to be consistent, and I have no doubt that they will shortly, in this respect, make up for lost time.
To expect that none of our young people will be influenced by this parade of scholarship is to expect too much. But faith in Christ should keep them from rushing rashly out against a book that Christ professed to live up to and came to fulfill. This battle of the scholars over the truth of the Bible is only being fought. We have no wish that it should not be fought. Everything has a right to be tested with caution and fairness, and when the battle is lost, it will be time enough for us to pass over to the side of the enemy. This question as to the truth of the Old Testament will be settled, and as sure as Christ is the Son of God, and has all power in heaven and on earth, it will be settled upon the lines of the attitude which he took up towards that book, and it will be settled to the disgrace of those who professed to believe in Jesus, but deserted his position before full examination was made. That no transcriber ever made a slip, or that no translator ever made a mistake, is not held by any one. But the day that it is proved that the Old Testament is not substantially true, faith in Christ and Christianity will get a shake from which it will never recover.
We have not lost faith in the Bible. There is no need for doing so. The word of the Lord will endure forever. But meantime, brethren, let us be faithful, prayerful, and cautious, and be not easily moved from the rock of God's word by the pretensions of "scholars" or of science, falsely so called.
I do not know that there is any necessary connection between the two, but a belief in evolution and scholarly doubts about large portions of the Old Testament, as a rule, go together. You must not profess to know anything of science in many quarters if you doubt evolution. In the bulk of even religious books it is referred to as a matter that science has settled beyond dispute. To expect that many of our young people will not be so far carried along by this current is to expect too much. Many of them will be carried so far; it is a question of how many and how far.
There perhaps never was a theory before believed by as many educated people without proof as the theory of evolution. It is an unproved theory; there is not a fact beneath it. That you have low forms of life, and forms rising higher and higher till you get to man, is fact. But that a higher species ever came from a lower is without proof. Let those who doubt this say when and where such a thing took place, and name the witnesses. Not only are there no facts in proof of it, but it flies in the face of facts without number. If like from like is not established, then nothing can be established by observation and experience. What other theory do we believe which contradicts all that we know to be true in regard to the subject to which it refers?
Not only does it contradict fact and experience, it contradicts reason. If you listen to the voice of reason, you can no more believe that the greater came from the less than you can believe that something came from nothing. We are intuitively bound to believe that an effect can not be greater than its cause. But the theory of evolution contradicts this at every step along the whole line.
I am anxious to find the truth in regard to anything that has a bearing upon my belief in God or religion. But in trying to find the truth, I have never regretted being true to myself. To slavishly follow others is, to say the least of it, unmanly. I do not believe in evolution because God has so made me that I can not. Wherever man came from, he sprang not from anything beneath him. When a man asks me to believe a thing that has not facts, but only theory to support it,—said theory contradicting fact, experience and reason,—he asks me more than I can grant. The thing is absurd, and must one day die.
I am agreeably surprised that we, as a people, have suffered so little as yet from the sources of error referred to. Still they are all living dangers, and if we would hold fast the faith once for all delivered to the saints, we must see to our own standing, and as God has given us opportunity let us be helpful to others. Our ground is God-given and well tested. The fellowship with God and with each other that it has brought to us has given us much happiness here. Let us be faithful and earnest the few years that we have to remain here, and our happiness will be increased when the Lord comes to reward us all according to our works.