My Dear Brethren:
Grace and peace through our Beloved Master!
It would seem appropriate to follow Brother Johnson’s custom at this season of the year to offer some
“THOUGHTS FOR THE MEMORIAL”
The first of which will be a quotation from Brother Johnson, which he published in March 1919:
It is not our thought to write in detail on the Memorial. We believe the dear ones will do best of all if they make a careful and prayerful study of the chapter on the Passover of the New Creation in “Studies in the Scriptures”, Series 6. There is nothing on the subject so good to be found elsewhere. We believe the dear ones will do well every year just before the Memorial to study this chapter. Its depth and truthfulness of thought, and its Purity and holiness of feeling will be good means of preparing us better for participating in the Lord's Supper.
We will this year miss many with whom in former years we kept this holy feast. We wish them one and all God's rich blessing both in their preparation for, and participation in, the Memorial. The sense of fellowship with fewer will furnish us with an opportunity of drawing nearer to the Lord, whose unfailing fellowship we crave and are privileged to share all the more, as our loyalty to Him in this testing time separates us from some with whom we formerly had sweet fellowship. As this is the Lord's way for us, we gladly take it, assured that “His way is best; it leads to rest; our Father planned it all.”
Since our beloved Pastor's passing beyond the veil many evil qualities have been at work among the Lord's people to the injury of many, and to the grief of all. As we are approaching the Memorial, would we not do well earnestly to seek, find and cast out the old leaven? (1 Cor. 5:7‑8) Should we not, especially the leaders among us, examine ourselves to see whether grasping for power, lording it over God's heritage, the spirit of fear and compromise, evil surmising, bitter accusations, murderous slander, contentious partisanship, injurious arbitrariness, legalistic worldliness unto an extensive pollution of the Truth people are qualities more or less active in us? (1 Cor. 11:27‑32) And finding more or less of these, will we not wash away this filthiness? (2 Cor. 7:1) Is this not a good time to seek reconciliation with those, especially if they are brethren, with whom we may not be at peace? (Col. 2:12,13) Ought we not seriously ponder the words of 1 Cor. 11:23-32? Will not some of us find fasting, especially on Nisan 14, a means of impressing more deeply the solemnities and realities suggested by the season, upon our minds and hearts? Will not these means greatly help the consecrated heart to prepare for and keep, not only the annual symbolic, but also the daily real feast? Yea, verily! Thus will we worthily partake of the symbols. Let us be faithful in our Justification, and in our Sanctification, appropriating our Lord's merits and partaking in His suffering in the interests of the Lord, the Truth and the brethren for the ultimate blessing of the world. (Phil. 3:9,10) So “let Us keep the feast!”
At this season of the year do the forces of darkness so often seem to prevail “Now is your hour and the power of darkness”, – Luke 12:53. Therefore, at the Memorial Season is the text specially appropriate. “Watch and pray lest ye enter into temptation.” To Peter Jesus had said, “Satan hath desired to have thee, that he may sift thee as wheat” (Luke 22:31); and Peter fell under the temptation. His failure is a warning to all not to trust too much to “the arm of flesh” – Jer. 17:5.
One of the chief weapons used by the Adversary against the Faithful has been excommunication. This was pronouncedly apparent in the case of Jesus Himself: “We hid as it were our faces from him”. When “He came to His own, His own received Him not”; even His natural brothers and sisters wanted none of Him. They had grown up in the same house with the “Lord of Glory”; had romped, wrestled and played with Him after the manner of children; had eaten at the same table, probably slept in the same bed, labored at the same carpenter's work bench, had found “no fault in this man” who was ready enough to give them freely of His blessings (Matt. 13:54‑8; Mark 6:1‑6). Yet their rejection of Him was so determined that in His final hour He committed the care of His aging mother to one not related to Him by blood, the Disciple whom He loved. The question would here seem properly placed: How do you think those brothers and sisters will feel when they emerge from the prison house of death and are told that the Voice that called them forth was the same, the very same, whom they had cast from their presence as an undesirable “blacksheep” of their family in “the days of His flesh”? It was indeed no idle saying that “Reproaches have broken my heart”.
I wonder what He charged for chairs at Nazareth!
And did men try to beat Him down,
Then boast about it round the town –
I bought it cheap for half a crown
From that mad Carpenter?
And, did they promise and not pay,
Put it off another day?
Oh, did they break His heart that way,
My Lord, the Carpenter?
I wonder, did He have bad debts,
And did He know my fears and frets?
The Gospel writer here forgets
To tell about the Carpenter.
But, that's just what I want to know;
Ah., Christian Glory! Here below
Men cheat and lie to each other so –
It's hard to be a Carpenter.
And, “As He is, so are we in this world”– l John 4:17. Excommunication has been the choice weapon against the Faithful all during the Age. The self‑styled “Pastors and Teachers”, who sat in Moses' seat, were ready enough to disfellowship the “Faithful and true witness” when He exposed their sins and their errors. “That woman Jezebel”, too, used it to the full in her determination to order even the thinking of the “heretics” in her claim as “Pastor and Teacher.” “Reading is doubt; doubt is heresy; and heresy is Hell!” Her excommmications consigned the “heretics” to the “vengeance of eternal fire”. So also, “the image of the beast executes all the authority of the first beast... he makes fire to come down from Heaven” (Rev. 13:12‑13 Dia.) – also claimed authority to disfellowship and consign to “fire” those that dared offer criticism to his errors and sins. And That Evil Servant was ready enough to embrace the tools of his soulmates of the past; most freely did he disfellowship and commit to the Second Death the faithful Protestants of Little Babylon “made fire come down from Heaven.”
As we contemplate a cool calm appraisal of the outrages of the past, the force of St. Paul's words cannot but penetrate the innermost recesses of the heart, “Let a man examine himself” – l Cor. 11:28,29. And this text means exactly what it says; the Lord's people are not to examine each other; each is to examine himself. There are just two reasons why any should be disfellowshiped – gross immorality, or gross doctrinal deflection. Aside from these two reason, none are to be debarred from the Lord's Memorial. The other position of the text quoted above permits reasonable liberty toward all who partake – “he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh condemnation to himself.” The justice of God is grandly demonstrated in Paul's words. We may not like the personal habits of others; we may consider them uncouth in appearance, speech, or mannerisms; but we are not to pass judgment upon such to disfellowship them from the Memorial assembly. We may be seated next to such a person; may be acutely cognizant of his limitations in the fruits and graces of the Holy Spirit; but we have the clear assurance that none of that will “rub off” onto us. If we have perhaps been overly liberal in admitting some to that solemn feast, we have the written word that such “eateth and drinketh condemnation to himself” – just as each one must examine himself. So the matter is pretty much an individual one as regards the general run of human frailties: The Faithful should examine himself; the unfaithful imbibes condemnation to himself. Therefore, we are justified in erring toward the liberal viewpoint, as against too rigid a viewpoint.
With this comes the Christian love of the writer and the prayer that our good Heavenly Father may “bless thee and keep thee” to the end that “no plague may come nigh thy dwelling”.