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A RADICAL SUGGESTION? AGAIN.
Last week we suggested the changing of the composition of our General Assembly so as to make it a continuing court of the Church, and suggested t liiit the members of the body be elected for three years, one-third being elected each year. If this were done when any meeting of the Assembly is held two-thirds of its mem bers will have had the experience of one or two years in the body and will form a good work ing nucleus into which the new members can soon be assimilated. These two-thirds will be familiar with all the business of the last session of the Assembly and will be in a position to handle wisely any un finished business left over or referred to com mittees. The charge has been made more than once that the Assembly is largely run by the Execu tive Secretaries and the clerks of the Assembly. Without impugning the slightest improper mo tive to one of these officers, it is perfectly nat ural that they should exert very large influence in a body formed as our Assembly is. When a matter that affects the work of a committee comes before the Assembly, and its members have not had the matter specially presented to them before, it is perfectly natural that they go to the secretary concerned for information and advice, lie naturally sees the matter from his own point of view and that of his commit tee. Naturally his information and advice would be more or less prejudiced by his own views. When a man has had the opportunity of discussing this subject for two or three years in connection with the consideration of all the other parts of the Church's work, he is more likely to take a broader view of the subject than he would otherwise. The objection may be made that the Presby tery cannot tell what matters may come before the Assembly two or three years in the future, and so it would not have the opportunity of selecting men who will represent its views in some one of these special matters. It should be borne in mind that special matters of vital im portance are very rare, and that the great bulk of the matters coming before the Assembly pertain to the planning for the regular work of the Church. We should never lose sight of the fact that our Church has not a democratic, but has a representative form of government. Xo Pres bytery would undertake to direct its repre sentatives how to vote. It should select men of ability, and let them consider the various mat ters brought before them, and then act upon their best judgment. In civil affairs men are elected almost always for more than a year. Members of Congress are elected for four and six years. It is im possible to foretell what may occur several years in the future, so men have to be selected because in a general way they represent the principles of the party which elects them. They must act on their own judgment. Certainly men of known standing in the Church, whose general views coincide with the teaching of the Church, can be trusted to apply these prin ciples in any case that may come before the Assembly. Some of the strong men of the Church cannot l>e induced to accept election to the Assembly. As the members are now selected they do not feel that it is a special honor and they feel that there is not much responsibility resting upon those who attend. Should the plan suggested be adopted the honor conferred upon the one elected would be very great. He would realize that his Presbytery had confidence in his abil ity, when it selects him to represent it for three years. Now many a man goes to the Assembly who lias very little knowledge of the work of the Church or of the important matters that are before it. When he is selected for three years he may not know much at first, but, after the first meeting of the Assembly he will know a great deal more ami during the next two years he will be studying these important questions, so that he may act intelligently in regard to them. As we have indicated, we realize that this may be considered a radical change. But that should not prevent its being made, if it will greatly advance the interests of God's king dom. We believe it is worth careful considera tion. HOW TO STUDY THE WORD OF GOD. That there is a revival of Bible study is be yond doubt. It is the most encouraging sign of the times. Many are asking what this old book means, and whether it has a living and saving message for the difficult problems of the day. It has an answer to all the questions of the hour. But its meaning cannot be forced. It does not lend itself to Procrustean beds of fixed thought. Of course the old cardinal truths, the ex istence of God, the divinity of Christ, the in spiration of the word, are beyond cavil or question. Man cannot doubt everything There are as fixed truths in theology as in mathematics. One of the grave3t mistakes we can make about the word, is to come to its study with certain fixed ideas about everything. Creeds grow out of the word, the word does not crowd into the narrow limits of a creed. Many come with a complete mystical, or spir itualizing theory, to which every incident and word must conform. Everything is typical of something, and the funniest thing is that every body has a different antitype of which this non-essential thing is "a striking type." When we get outside the clear statement of what is type, we are apt to run into absurdity. Many things are clearly called type, in Scripture, but just as clearly many things are only simple historic incident and fact. This is a method of allegorizing that tends to dis credit this book and bring it into disfavor with plain, matter-of-fact people. It is put into the category of Moore's Utopia, or Aesop's Fables or even Robinson Crusoe. Another way not to study the word is to bend it to a polemic use; to gather ecclesias tical weapons for creedal assaults or defense. The Bible has a plenty of good hard nuggets that may well be used to build up the faith, but it lends itself to no man's shibboleth. This is evident from the fact that the most diver gent faiths find their carnal arguments in its pages. God did not intend for us to feed upon weapons of warfare. Perhaps the commonest mistake we make about the use of the Bible is in studying it in fragments. To this end the modern Sunday school lessons have tended. How absurd to read Milton's Paradise Lost, by skipping over page after page and taking a paragraph here and one there. How would Shakespeare sound, if we read a scene here and another in a different play yonder? There is just as much, nay more, continuity in this book than in any mere human composi tion. The way to study is, at least, by books. We should ask the question, why is this book here, what are its principal teachings, what is its divine purpose? Every book has a niche in this perfect Tem ple of Truth. If absent there would be a se rious gap, and an awkward vacancy. Our first question, why was this book placed here, and what it supplies in the perfect Temple? Then, having gotten its keyword or thought, see how it is developed by the writer under the inspi ration of the Spirit. These writers are ex ceedingly logical without being hard. The bones and framework are there, though they do not exhibit the anatomy very oppressively. But the student can well study that frame. And then the wonders of God's word will con tinually grow on us. And as we study the book as a whole and then in parts we will see how it tits into the problem of the day and what a wonderful ex planation it has of all of life's troubles. In view of the falling oft' in Sunday-school -ir tendance we would urge upon the Church the duty of Bible study. The prayer meeting often lags, and looks sometimes as if it were doomed. It is remarkable that the best attended mid week services are Bible studies where whole books are studied in this candid and clear and historic way. The pastor can present something far moro attractive than a sermonette. Take up whole book ? Isaiah for instance ? and see if something more interesting than the "usual talk" does not help the prayer meeting. Is it possible to find anything that will en list the interest of men's Bible classes? In every department of the Sunday-school why not study whole books? Above all, study these words of God with the light of the Holy Spirit sent in answer to prayer. A. A. L. Contributed THE MILLENIUM. An Exegetical Study of Revelation, Chapter 20, in the Light of the Book as a Whole. By Rev. Eugene C. Caldwell, D. D., Professor of New Testatment Interpretation, Union Theological Seminary, Richmond, Va. (Contined.) II. The souls who are reigning with Christ are the martyrs and confessors of the Neronian and Domitian persecutions. "1 saw," says John, "the souls of them that had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God, and such as wor shipped not the beast, neither his image, and received not the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand" (20:4). "The souls of them that had been beheaded," evidently describes those that had suffered martyrdom. The phrase, "and such as," seems to introduce a second class of persons, who while not suffering actual martyrdom, yet possessed the martyr spirit and endured reproach, boycotting, im prisonment, loss of goods and other hardships rather than worship the beast and his image. They are known in Church history as "con fessors," and are defined in the Century Dic tionary as "those who having been persecuted and tormented were permitted to die in peace.' Note, then, we have here two classes ? the mar tyrs and the "confessors," who possessed the true martyr spirit, suffered persecution, yet died in peace. Who are these martyrs and con fessors? Modern scholarship with the aid of the vastly increased light that has been thrown upon the book of Revelation in recent years makes the unanimous answer: They are the victims of Nero and Domitian. The vcrdict of modem investigation is indicated in the fol lowing statement of Harnack : "That the beast