Sunday, April 12, 2020

The True Church (Sermon by Russell)

Russell’s views concerning the divisions, sects and demonations, as related to the true church.
We are presenting below the sermon of Charles Taze Russell entitled “The True Church.” This sermon proves that Russell did not believe in sectarianism, and, while not condoing denominationalism, he believed that there could be Christians in all of the denominations that profess to be Christian. As one can see by reading this, Russell certainly did not believe in an organization such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses have today, which they style “Jehovah’s organization.” This sermon may be found on page 120 in the book, Pastor Russell’s Sermons. Please note that the owner of this website does not necessarily agree with all the details of Russell’s conclusions.

“The Church of the First-borns, whose names are written in Heaven.” — Hebrews 12:23.
This subject should be approached prayerfully and honestly, that all who see that there was but one Church in the beginning, established by our Lord, may also see that there will be but the one Church in the end, the Church Triumphant in glory, “the Bride, the Lamb’s Wife.” For the same reason that there have been doctrines many amongst the followers of Jesus, there have been churches many, as representing those doctrines.
We have found the true Gospel more or less scattered in all the various creeds, and none of them the pure and unadulterated Gospel; so we should be prepared to find that the one true Church of Christ for the past eighteen centuries has been scattered here and there amongst various denominations, and that not one of these denominations is the true Church. Not one of them can claim to contain all the “wheat” and none of the “tares.” Not one of them can claim to contain all of the saints and no hypocrites. The time was when the various divisions of the Christian Church severally laid claim to being the one and only Church. But that time has passed, as far as the people and the majority of the clergy are concerned.
I shall not charge intentional wrong-doing on the part of any of the divisions of the Christian Church. On the contrary, I shall assume that the framers of the various creeds were sincere, honest men; and that the original followers of those creeds were sincere, and that a few today may be equally sincere. I shall assume, however, that the majority of Christians, ministers and laymen, realize that the sectarian fences are largely composed of misconceptions of the Divine Word and Plan, and that the causes which originally led to Church divisions have considerably disappeared. If we can now recognize one true Gospel we may all reunite, in harmony with our Master’s prayer, that “All may be one, as Thou, Father, and I are one.” — John 17:21.
I remind you again of the simplicity of this Gospel which recognizes the broad outlines of the Divine Plan and allows each individual to see as many of the finer lines of the same as his spiritual development will permit.
On that broad basis of Christian union the early Christians were one and reprobated any division. St. Paul rebuked those who said, “I am of Paul; I am of Apollos; I am of Peter.” (1 Corinthians 1:12) As only Christ died for us all, He alone must be recognized as our Savior.
As He is the Head of the Church and the only Head, He only must be recognized. As all ye are brethren, so the class distinction as between clergy and laity must be abrogated that we all may be one Church with one Lord, one Faith and one Baptism and one God and Father over all. — Ephesians 4:5.
How the divided Church, with clashing creeds, appears to the Almighty, He tells us, calling it Babylon—which signifies confusion. And who can deny the appropriateness of the name? In times past Catholics have applied this name to the Protestant sects, and the Protestants in turn have applied it to the Church of Rome.
But when we come to examine the Scriptures on the subject they seem to include all—the Church of Rome being represented as the Mother Church and the various Protestant Churches as her daughters. The charge of harlotry which the Lord makes against mother and daughters must be acknowledged, although with some this harlotry is more pronounced than with others.
Using the Jewish marriage ceremony as the basis of the figure, all Christians, as members of the true Church, are declared to be “espoused to one husband, which is Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:2) Under the Jewish custom the espousal brought the woman under the same obligation of chastity as though the marriage had taken place. Thus the Church, by her vow to her Lord, is obligated to the full, although the marriage with the Heavenly Bridegroom will not take place until His Second Advent and the change of the espoused from earthly to Heavenly conditions; for “flesh and blood” cannot inherit the Kingdom of God.” — Revelation 19:7; John 14:3; 1 Corinthians 15:50.
Spiritual harlotry is the condition in which the espoused of the Lord becomes affiliated with and joined to the world. Thus the Church of Rome became affiliated with or united to the civil government of Rome; and when the Roman Empire went to pieces, the Papal Church entered into covenant relationship with various divisions of the civil government; and some of these paramours she still has, while others have left her. France is gone, Portugal also, and Italy. Spain is moody; Austro-Hungary is her chief reliance at the present time. She is well treated in America, but not joined to the American Government.
She is well entertained and given every liberty in Germany and by many in Great Britain, but these countries are not her paramours.
The Greek Church is joined to the Russian Government; the Church of England to the British Government.
The Lutheran Church is married to several European governments. Others of our Protestant Churches, having no opportunity for affiliation with earthly governments, have become united to worldly systems, worldly organizations of their own, in which, as a rule, Wealth, Mammon, sits at the head of the table. “Like mother, like daughters” is an old saying. Instead of charging this whole matter upon others, let us each recognize and take to heart our own share, for which we are responsible.
As the doctrinal errors which caused our divisions gradually developed during a long period of darkness, so our development along the lines of spiritual harlotry were gradual. It is not for us to quarrel with the facts, which are undeniable, but to sincerely repent of the wrong condition and renounce it. Coming back to the one faith, we should come back also to the one Lord. So doing He will graciously receive us and thenceforth His name alone will be quite sufficient. We shall no longer need to style ourselves Roman Christians, English Christians, Lutheran Christians, Calvinistic Christians — but all such names will be abhorred as reminders of the unfaithfulness which we now deplore. As the name Christian was sufficient for the early Church it is sufficient today for all heartily glad to abandon errors of the past and to come together as the one “Church of the Living God.”
As for the one baptism, let us concede what the Scriptures claim and declare, namely, that the water immersion is merely a symbol or picture of the burial of the individual’s will and interests in death—like unto and in fellowship with our Lord’s self-renouncement, even unto death. Thus all of the consecrated, of whatever denomination, can be recognized as members of the one true Church if they are dead with Christ to the world, its hopes and aims—buried with Him by baptism into His death, which death to the flesh (accepted by the Father) constitutes us members of the one Body of Christ, the true Church. If thus baptized into His death, we shall share also in His resurrection. — Romans 6:4,5.
Is it asked, Where has the true Church been during all the eighteen centuries since the Apostles died? We answer that the Scriptures picture her as going into the wilderness condition, out of public view, for twelve hundred and sixty years of this time. As pride, pomp, arrogance and error came into prominence, meekness, gentleness, love, simplicity, gradually retired. Through the long period of the Dark Ages no history of the true Church was written, just as no such history or record of her can be written today. — Revelation 12:6,14.
Since none of the various denominations is the true Church, therefore the history of none of these gives her history. As her members are Scripturally declared to contain not many wise, not many learned, therefore scattered amongst all the various creeds and churches, and some outside of them all, the espoused, chaste “virgin” of the Lord is not a prominent feature in church affairs and is wholly unknown to the world. Indeed, these, while in the world, are not of it and usually are disesteemed.
As the Master said, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love its own.” — John 15:18,19.
If, then, the spirit-begotten ones, constituting the Lord’s betrothed virgin Church, are few, and if that few be scattered amongst the four hundred millions nominally styled Christendom, it follows that they are greatly in the minority and could have comparatively little influence today even if they were ever so determined and energetic. The masses and classes rule. Wealth, learning, earthly interests and earthly power are better pleased with present conditions than with those which God’s Word promises will be established when Messiah shall take to Himself His great power and begin His Reign.
Babylon, as the Scriptures declare, is great, influential, powerful—mother and daughters. She will never consent to a recognition of the saintly few in her midst, whom she considers foolish in claiming to be “the Elect” and true Church. To apply the Apostle’s words, She esteems the saintly class “fools all the day long,” “the filth and off-scouring” of the earth. To her they are the impracticables. To her they are insurrectionists always crying out for the simplicities of the Gospel, the rights and liberties of the individual in person and conscience, for holiness unto the Lord, not merely in name, but in deed and in truth. For this true Church class, so small a minority in Babylon, to wait for the conversion of the worldly masses of the various systems to see “eye to eye” with them in this matter and to reform all these various systems would be to confess folly and to be led of unreason.
In such a matter we need the wisdom which comes from above and the faith and courage to follow it. The Lord’s prayer must be our guide respecting His will concerning us—us who have by faith and consecration and begetting of the Holy Spirit been adopted into the One True Church “whose names are written in Heaven.” He prayed for us and not for the nominal mass, who are really parts of the world and thoroughly deceiving themselves in supposing that they have either part or lot or inheritance with the Church. Thank God that we now see that this does not mean that all except the saintly will be eternally tormented, but merely that none except the saintly, “copies of God’s dear Son,” can be members of the glorious “little flock,” which God predestined to gather from every nation, people, kindred and tongue.
Of this faithful Church the Lord declares, “My sheep know My Voice and they follow Me.” We hear His Voice assuring us that it is His will that we who belong to His chaste, espoused virgin class should all be one—should no longer be separated into sects and parties by creedal fences. The Lord declares that He gave Babylon time for repentance and she repented not. He declares that His sentence against the Babylonian system has already gone forth—that, from the Divine standpoint, already “Babylon is fallen! is fallen!” from Divine favor. What would be the wish of our Beloved, to whom we are betrothed? What is His message to us? It is written, “Come out of her, My people, that ye be not partakers of her sins and that ye receive not of her plagues”—her troubles — Revelation 18:4; John 10:27.
Since the nominal systems are not in that consecrated condition of heart, hungering and thirsting for the Truth and for righteousness, and dead to self-will, therefore it is hopeless to think of their surrender of their interests, theories, etc. The very most they could think of doing would be to federate—to agree not to war with each other. Far better would it be to have some theological battles and air their inconsistencies before the wiser public of today. But whatever Babylon may do, mother and daughters, the course of the saintly few, the real Church, which is shortly to come from the “wilderness” leaning upon the arm of her Beloved Bridegroom, is clearly set forth. The saintly should unite in heart on the principles and doctrines of God’s Word, and should stand free in the liberty wherewith Christ has made them free from all human bondage and sectarianism.
Why should the Lord permit the formation of these great wards and divisions in Mystic Babylon? He has permitted only such things as He is able to make work out blessings for His Very Elect, His “little flock,” who soon shall be joint-heirs with Christ in His Kingdom.
Babylon’s strong sectarian walls, styled “orthodoxy,” and the great brazen gates of worldliness will afford the saintly few the very test they need to demonstrate themselves “overcomers”—”more than conquerors”; for such overcomers only will constitute the members of the Bride class. All the promises are made to the “overcomers,” and there must needs be permitted subtle evils for their testing, that those approved of God may be manifested.
In a word, our Lord’s prayer will be realized by the “overcomers.” They will be one with Himself and with the Father; there will be “one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God, the Father.” But as for the nominal systems their future will be destruction as systems, though many of God’s dear people in them, failing to overcome, will be “saved so as by fire” in a great Time of Trouble with which this Age will terminate and the New Age will be ushered in. — 1 Corinthians 3:15; Ephesian 4:4-6.
You have my plea, Christian brethren, for the fulfilment of the Master’s prayer in the union of “the Church which is the Body of Christ,” “the Church of the First-borns whose names are written in heaven.” This union will not necessitate any reorganization as a new sect or new Church. It is the true Church, the only one which God has ever recognized. Babylon, without it, would not be in any sense of the word recognized of God; and as soon as the “overcomers” shall have escaped from Babylon, Babylon will come in remembrance before God that He may give to her the cup of the wine of His wrath, and suddenly, in one hour, her fall will occur. (Revelation 16:19,18,10) To the true Church the Lord all along intimated that their oneness is as members of Christ, and not in earthly organizations. We do not read, Gather together unto Calvin, Luther, Wesley, Paul, Apollos or Peter, but, “Gather together My saints unto Me, saith the Lord, those who have made a Covenant with Me by sacrifice.” “They shall be Mine, saith the Lord, in that day when I come to make up My jewels.” — Malachi 3:17.
When all of the sanctified shall have been delivered, the clock of the Universe will strike the hour which closes the present Dispensation and opens the New; and “the salt of the earth” having been removed from Babylon, corruption will swiftly ensue. Flee out of Babylon! Deliver every man his soul! Let us use the light of “Present Truth” to the extent that each enjoys it. It will guide us in respect to all the affairs of life—into closer fellowship with God and the Savior and the brethren; and into separateness of mind and heart and service from Babylon. Let Babylon proceed with the good works in which she takes pride. The work of the saints, the Lord declares, is to “build one another up in the most holy faith,” that eventually it may be said, “The marriage of the Lamb has come; for His Wife hath made herself ready.”

The Rock-Built Church (Sermon by Russell)

Sermon by Charles Taze Russell concerning the true church as related to sectarianism and denominationalism.
The National Labor Tribune, May 21, 1905
Pastor C. T. Russell addressed a goodly audience Sunday afternoon at Carnegie Hall, Allegheny. His text and discourse follow:
“Upon this rock will I build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18
What instruction can we draw from these words of our divine Master? Well would it have been for all of his followers down through this Gospel age had they given closer attention to the Master’s inspired utterances and those of his heaven-directed apostles, and less attention to the speculations of men, however well intentioned, however wise in earthly lore.
As the “traditions of the elders” confused the Jews and made the Word of God of no effect, and thus hindered many from receiving our Lord at his first advent, so the traditions of the ancients–coming down to us through the creeds formulated during and following the dark ages–have tended to becloud the minds of many of the Spiritual Israelites, who today are much more in bondage to these traditions than they are aware of. Let us, dear brethren and sisters, as our eyes open wider to the facts, be the more on the alert to hold fast the precious Word and to reject any and everything for which we can not find authority in the inspired records. May the Lord bless to us our study of our text, that our minds may be clarified, our faith purified, our whole lives be more illuminated, and our way toward the heavenly City become more and more easy to follow!
The first thought that strikes us in connection with this text is that there is only one Church built by our Lord– only one Church properly to be recognized as his–“My Church.” Throughout Christendom we see many churches of many names, some of them founded recently and others in the remote past, some having one hope and some another, some having one baptism and some another, some having one faith and some another, some having one organization and some another. Time would fail us to trace the history of these various organizations of churches. We can only briefly rehearse the matter as follows:
(1) There was the Church which the Lord founded in the twelve apostles and about five hundred brethren who believed on him, accepted his Messiahship, and became his disciples during his ministry. For these he prayed the Father on the night on which he was betrayed, saying, “I pray not for the world, but for them thou hast given me, That they all may be one; as thou, Father, and I are one: that (eventually) the world may believe that thou hast sent me. Neither pray I for these alone, but for those also who shall believe on my Word.” This true Church was formally recognized of the Father at Pentecost, and progressed in its appointed work of seeking out and building up in the most holy faith those who had the ears to hear and the hearts to receive the message that Jesus was the Anointed One who had died for our sins, and who would ultimately deliver all who would accept the favor.
(2) As our Lord foretold in the parable of the wheat and tares, it was not long after the apostles fell asleep in death until the great adversary, Satan, brought in grievous errors in the name of Christ, and thus sowed tares amongst the “wheat.” History shows that the tareproducing errors began to flourish in the Lord’s Church and under his own banner early in the second century, and, as the Scriptures had foretold, the tare class had increased until the wheat was practically swamped. Meantime, gradually an organization sprang up which, while claiming to be of Christ, was really an organization of men along different lines from that which the Master laid down, and bound or organized, not with the cords of love–union with the Head–but with creeds, confessions, forms and ceremonies very different from the simplicity which the Lord and the apostles as his representatives had instituted. This organization established its headquarters at Rome, and gradually increased its power and influence, by fair means and foul, until it acquired such a prominence and predominance that those who adhered to the simplicity of the faith and practice laid down by the Lord and the apostles were gradually lost sight of, or, where noticed at all, were called heretics and were persecuted as such. This condition of things prevailed for fourteen centuries. All this time there were, we believe, here and there solitary individuals, a “little flock,” who held fast the faithful Word and who recognized no other organization than that which the Lord himself instituted, the organization in which each member is united to the Lord in faith, in love, in consecration, and thus united to each other. But these few were so insignificant in the eyes of the world, and in the sight of the great human system that overshadowed everything, that there may be said to be no history of them for all those centuries– indeed there is no history of this kind of Christians even yet.
(3) In the sixteenth century a religious reformation which had been working for some time broke forth. It had its sympathizers in every part of the civilized world, but for the time its chief leaders were Luther and his coadjutors in Germany, and Zwingli and his associates in Switzerland, and others of the same spirit in other parts, particularly in England and Scotland. The reformation thus begun was an attempt to go back to the simplicity of the early Church — the Church of Christ — the Church founded upon the rock, as declared in our text.
The result of this reformation movement we see all about us in the five hundred or more different denominations of Christendom. The motive in the organization of each of these systems undoubtedly was to go back to the original lines of the primitive Church which our Lord founded. But, alas, for human weaknesses, prejudices, ignorance and superstition: in every case, it would appear, a fragment of truth was grasped and combined with old errors from the dark ages, and became the pretext for a new name and a new organization fashioned, not after the original pattern, but corresponding more nearly to the form, style, bondage, etc., of the Roman Catholic “mother.”
In dealing thus with the facts of the case, we are not railing against the good intentions of the organizers of these various sects and parties. On the contrary, we hold that they have been more or less deceived and duped by the great adversary and deceiver, Satan. We give them credit for a considerable degree of honesty, but believe that worldly men with worldly motives, “tares,” had much to do with all these organizations. We merely wish now to call attention to the fact that none of these manmade institutions can properly claim to be the Church which our Lord in our text called “my Church.” Indeed, so far as we are aware, few if any now make that claim — though there was a time when practically each one of them claimed to be the only true Church. Now they recognize that none of these organizations were founded by the Lord, and very few in any denomination dispute our statement that their membership in earthly sects and denominations brings then no favor with the Lord, since they are organizations which the Lord neither established nor authorized, and that the only hope of any is in vital, personal union with Christ and with all who are his, outside of and without regard to any of these human organizations, good or bad.
We see, then, that the Church which Christ organized has existed all through the centuries — has been composed of all of those individuals inside and outside of man-made churches, sects, parties, and only these have ever constituted the one and only Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. So many as see this matter clearly and distinctly will be ready to follow the command of the Lord to separate themselves from all human institutions, which the Lord designates Babylon–“Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins” (false doctrines and antagonism to those now seeking to lift up the standard raised by our Lord and the apostles). Revelation 18:4
Upon what rock did our Lord suppose to build his Church? Our Roman Catholic friends quote this passage with fervor and heat and boast that the Apostle Peter was the rock, and that they made him the first Pope of their Church years and years after he was dead, and on the strength of their having done this they claim that they are the only Church on the true foundation–Peter.
We must dissent from this view as unreasonable as well as unscriptural. We have already shown that the organization, creeds, ceremonies, etc., of the Church of Rome are wholly different from those instituted by our Lord and his apostles as set forth in the New Testament. Compare the two. We note carefully our text and its context to ascertain under what circumstances our Lord used these words and what rock he meant. The context shows that the people were beginning to discuss our Lord’s personality–who he was–and our Lord took occasion to inquire of the apostles what they heard on the subject. Then he asked them their opinion, “Whom say ye that I the Son of man am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the living God.” It was this great fact, that our Lord declared to be the truth, which would build his Church. And it is so today: Every true member of the Church built upon the true foundation is resting his faith not upon Peter, nor upon the human Church organization but upon this great truth that Jesus was the Son of God and the Messiah who had so long been promised, whose mission it was in God’s due time to bless the whole world by destroying sin and the wages of sin, death, and by destroying also all who after full opportunity continue in wilful sin.
Our Romanist friends fell into their error in supposing that Peter was the rock because of his having been the one who voiced this great truth respecting Christ’s Messiahship, and because our Lord there associated his name Peter (Greek Petros, which means a piece of rock) with this great rock truth which he had expressed. The word rock in our text, in the Greek, is Petra and signifies a mass of rock. Thus we see that our Lord declared Peter one of the rocks or living stones who, with others, would be built upon this great foundation truth which Peter had expressed by divine inspiration. That the Apostle Peter had this same thought respecting the matter is evident, for in his epistle he speaks of the true children of God as living stones for God’s temple, built upon Christ as the great foundation. 1 Peter 2:4-5
If we examine this rock-truth upon which the true Church was to be built, we find that a great many are building partly upon it and partly upon the sandy foundation of human theories. All who are truly consecrated to the Lord should seek to build their faith upon the full significance of this great foundation truth which our Lord commended as such. Unfortunately the word Christ has in a general way lost its real meaning. It is the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew word Messiah, but the Messiah thought is lost to many. In the Messiah thought we mean the thought which for centuries God had inculcated in the minds of the Jews respecting the great Deliverer of their race and the world of mankind.
The Messiah “thought” was the one the apostles had, which led them to recognize Jesus as not only the Redeemer of the world, but also the one who, in due time, after selecting his Church, after building it upon this foundation truth, would come a second time and establish in the world a reign of righteousness, with himself as the great spiritual, invisible King, all powerful in the subduing of sin and every evil, all powerful also in the blessing and uplifting of all who will turn from sin to God. This Messianic thought pervades all the writings of all the apostles, as, for instance, in Peter’s declaration following the Pentecostal blessing– “Times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord, and he shall send Jesus Christ (Messiah–at his second advent), whom the heavens must receive (retain) until the times of restitution of all things spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began.” Acts 3:19-23
Whoever would get his faith properly built upon the foundation which the Lord declared to be the true one, should see to it that this declaration of our Lord’s Messiahship has its proper prominent place in his faith, his hope, his aspirations, his joys in the Truth. Another part of this rock-truth is that Jesus is the Son of the living God. Many there are in the pulpits of Christendom who gradually, insinuatingly, are introducing to their hearers the thought that Jesus was a mere man, that he was not “separate from sinners” (Heb. 7:26), that he had no prehuman existence, that he did not come down from above. Such teaching is off the foundation, and all who give heed thereto are building upon the sand, and will surely suffer loss as a consequence. But while yielding to none in our reverence for the great ransom sacrifice which our Lord gave on behalf of the sins of the whole world, and in our admiration for the nobility of character which led him to leave the heavenly courts to become a man that he might redeem us from the penalty of Adam’s sin, and with highest appreciation of his subsequent resurrection to glory, honor and the divine nature, nevertheless we must fault those who falsely teach, contrary to the Scriptures, that Jesus was the heavenly Father as well as the Son of God–that the two were one in person, that he sent himself, that when he died it was the death of Jehovah, and that either
and deception merely, or else the universe for a time was without a God. Such absurd statements have come down from the dark ages and find no recognition whatever in the words of the Lord and the apostles. Some mistakenly suppose that they thus add honor to our divine Master by claiming that he was Jehovah, for the time disguised in the flesh. But instead of adding honor, these dear friends unintentionally dishonor the Master and discredit his Word. It was himself that said, “I delight to do the Father’s will,” not his own; it was himself that prayed to the Father, and that without deception or fraud; it was himself who prayed in his dying hour to the Father; it was himself who, after his resurrection, declared to Mary, “I ascend to my Father and to your Father, to my God and your God.” Those who contradict the Lord in these matters, and who assume to know more than he did on these subjects, are not properly on the rock foundation which he laid, and which distinctly recognizes him as the Son of the living God. Whoever may thus find himself drifting from the foundation should return thereto, otherwise he will surely suffer loss to the extent that he neglects the Master’s word.
Neither did the apostles contradict the Lord and say that he was the Father, nor that he was equal with the Father. The highest declaration of homage expressed by them is in these words, “Him hath God highly exalted, and given a name above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth,” “And that all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father.” No uninspired man has the authority to add to the inspired utterances of God’s Word, and none should have the temerity to do so. The Apostle Paul distinctly expresses himself on this subject, saying, “To us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.” (1 Cor. 8:6) At a future time we may deal with this subject more exhaustively, but since this is a part of the rock foundation of our text, thus much attention is due to the matter here.
Our Lord’s words in our text, declaring that the gates of hell shall not prevail against his Church, are seemingly understood by the majority of Christian people. All educated ministers understand it, but they seem indisposed to communicate their knowledge to the people–probably for fear that they should gain thus a clearer knowledge of the true meaning of the Greek word, hades, rendered hell in this passage and elsewhere. The ordinary mind, ensnared with the erroneous doctrine of eternal torment, which has come down blazing and smoking from the dark ages, draws a picture from these words of our text that is far, far from their true meaning.
The erroneous view sees gates red-hot and flaming, seeking to enclose the Church with the world in a hell of flame and torture under the control of devils. To those who have this view, the Lord’s words signify that he will exert his power to the intent that those who are truly his shall not be shut up to that awful doom which will be upon the remainder of the race. Nothing could be farther from the truth than this picture, which comes to the average mind because of ignorance, false teaching or no teaching upon this subject.
As soon as the light of Truth shines into our minds we learn the true meaning of the Greek word hades in the New Testament and of sheol in the Old Testament which it is used to translate. If time permitted, dear friends, we could give you most abundant evidence from scores of texts that these words, as used throughout the Scriptures, had no significance of torture or fire or anything of the kind. The equivalent hades merely signifies the tomb, the death state, and is translated nearly seventy times, grave, and frequently where the word hell is given in the text, some one disposed to help the reader has in the marginal column given the true significance, “grave.”
According to the Scriptures all mankind go down into sheol, hades, the tomb, the death state. Our Lord himself was dead, was in hades, the tomb, for parts of three days, and arose from the dead, arose from hades. The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians describes first the deliverance of the Church from the power of hades, from death, as the first resurrection, to glory, honor and immortality. (1 Cor. 15:42-46) Then proceeding he shows (v. 55) the ultimate deliverance of the remainder of mankind who will come into harmony with the Lord, and in connection with this he quotes from the Prophet Hosea (13:14) a shout of victory over death that will then be due, saying, “0 death, where is thy sting? 0 grave (hades) where is thy victory?” The Apostle adds, “Thanks unto God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” He gained the victory in his own case by his obedience in the things which he suffered, and by laying down his life as a propitiation for the sins of the whole world. When he ascended up on high, he applied the merits of his victory to his Church, which he counts as “members of his body;” and these in turn he has invited to participate with him in the victory over sin and death, by laying down their lives, by walking in his steps of self-sacrifice.
The Lord’s victory applied to the Church will result in the deliverance of every member of it from the power of hades, the grave. The gates of hades shall not prevail against the Church. It was sin that brought upon mankind the penalty of death –“The soul that sinneth, it shall die” — but through Christ, believers are justified from sin; and when the entire Church shall be complete in the end of this age, the Lord’s power will be exercised and every member of his Church shall come forth from the gates of death. For eighteen hundred years or more the gates of death, the power of the tomb, have prevailed against the Lord’s Church. Like the remainder of the world they have gone down into death; but when the due time shall have fully come, every member of his Church shall be delivered from hades, the grave, by a resurrection. It was to this that our Lord referred in his last message to his Church, saying, “I am he that was dead, and, behold, I am alive for evermore, and have the keys of death and of hades –the grave.” The key is the symbol of power, authority, ability to open the grave.
Similarly our Lord’s resurrection was prophetically and symbolically represented as the bursting of the bars of the tomb –of sheol. All who are of the Lord’s true Church, by faith and consecration, whether in man-made churches or not, whether or not they have yet obeyed the Lord’s command, “Come out of her,” — all these may rejoice in the Lord’s assurance that the gates, the bars of the tomb, shall not prevail against them; that in his due time every true believer shall be fully liberated from the bondage not only of death but also of sin.
It is another part of our glorious hope set forth in the Scriptures, when we come to understand them aright, that the work of the next age will be to liberate all of the prisoners from this great prison-house of death–sheol, hades, the tomb; and that the Church will be associated with our Lord in that great work, the final victory over death, the victory that was begun in our Lord’s resurrection and that will reach still further development in the resurrection of the Church, which is his body, the resurrection of the just and which will reach a still further development in the raising up to life and fully freeing from every vestige of death and sin all those who, during the Millennial age, coming to a knowledge of the Lord, will come also into harmony with his reasonable and just requirements and receive at its end the blessing of eternal life. All others will be remanded to death, the second death, from which there will be no redemption, no deliverance, no resurrection.
Dear friends, let us appreciate this great foundation of faith which the Lord has laid down for us, and let us build thereon obediently to the letter and spirit of his Word and regardless of human traditions, that we have the special blessing which he is pleased to give to those he will recognize as his faithful followers –to those who will hear and heed his voice and not the voice of strangers.

But One Church of the Living God (Russell)

What did Russell believe about the one true church?

This sermon is reproduced from:
People’s Pulpit – National Labor Tribune, Oct. 1, 1911


Pastor Russell preached in Brooklyn’s largest and finest Auditorium, which was crowded to hear his discourse on “Which is the True Church?” It may not be strictly true to say that every person in the large audience went home fully satisfied that he had located the one true Church to which the Bible continually refers. It is not too much to assert, however, that the vast majority of those who heard were both pleased and convinced. Not really great man is without his enemies, but it may surely be said that Pastor Russell is gaining many friends throughout the Christian world every week through the widespread reports of his sermons. The text for the occasion was, “The Church of the First-borns, whose names are written in heaven.” — Hebrews 12:23

He adverted to the Scriptural records which refer to the Church of Christ as one, not as many. Pastor Russell declared that in this matter the Church of Rome and the Church of England hold aloof from many Protestant denominations. They claim that to recognize them as churches would be unscriptural, since there is but one Church of the Living God. The various Protestant denominations started out with similar views, similar theories, though today they have abandoned them. The Church of England formed an organization separate from that of Rome, believing that the former had been the one true Church but had departed form the faith, and that it was the duty of the faithful to recognize her as Babylon, confusion. The claim to be the true Church they applied to themselves. Similarly, Presbyterians, Methodists, Congregationalists, Adventists, Disciples, etc., have withdrawn, and many of these originally claimed to be the one true, loyal, faithful Church of Christ. Today, however, the pendulum has swung to the other side. Moreover, the narrowness of the past is rapidly giving way. All are learning that to be a Christian means more than merely to be immersed; more than merely to be sprinkled; more than merely to believe in the doctrine of Election; more than merely to believe in the doctrine of Free Grace; more than to believe in the doctrine of Transubstantiation or Consubstantiation. With this enlargement of mind Christians are indeed in danger of losing sight of the fact that the True Church is the custodian of “the faith once delivered to the saints” — which acknowledges “one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, and one Church of the living God.” — Jude 1:3; Ephesians 4:5; 1 Timothy 3:15.


The key to the situation is found in our Lord’s words: “Not all that say unto Me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of heaven;” not all who call themselves Christians, with one denominational tag or another, are members of the one Church, the Church of the First-borns, mentioned in our text. As good, rich, milk is sometimes called cream, so all the members of Christian denominations are sometimes called Christians — in a complimentary sense, because not unsympathetic with true Christian principles. Nevertheless, only those in all denominations who have conformed to the conditions required of Christian discipleship, the saintly ones, constitute the True Church — “The Church of the First-born, whose names are written in heaven.” — Matthew 7:21; Hebrews 12:23.

If we had a box of sawdust and scattered through it a paper of tacks until the latter were quite hidden from view, surrounded and covered in the sawdust, we know that we could take a magnet and, by passing it to and fro amongst the sawdust, the magnet would attract to itself every tack. The tacks of this illustration represent a small class of humanity, zealous at heart for God and righteousness. The magnet represents the Gospel invitation which is now passed up and down, hither and thither throughout the civilized world, and to some extent, into the heathen world.

When we convince our hearers that the non-elect of this Age are not doomed to eternal torment, but will have a blessing of inferior degree to that of “the elect,” the effect should be to right our minds and to cause us to think carefully and critically of the stringent terms of discipleship which the Bible lays down as conditions for membership in the one true Church.

Heretofore, with the false thought in mind that all except the Church would be eternally tormented, we have all shrunk from making any reasonable application of the Scriptural texts regarding saintship, discipleship, the becoming members of the Church of the First-born. This was partly because of fear of ourselves, lest we might not come up to the standard of saintship, but especially was it because of our realization that the great mass of humanity in Christendom, as well as in heathen lands, came far short of the terms of discipleship laid down in God’s Word. Today the matter comes close home to us all, for we realize that many who were very near and dear to us have died outside of the nominal church, and far outside the special line of conditions which marked the Church of the First-born.

Amongst other texts cited by the Pastor as showing the exclusive and high standard of the elect Church, we note the following. “If any man will be My disciple, let him take up his cross and follow me; and where I am there shall My disciples be also;” “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My Throne;” “Strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Luke 9:23; Matthew 7:14); “Let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race set before us” (Hebrews 12:1): “If these things be in you and abound (the graces of the Holy Spirit) they will make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord,*** for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” — 2 Peter 1:8, 11.


St. Paul informs us that all the various features of the Jewish Law were types of still higher, still better things. In our text the expression, “Church of the First-born,” has reference to a type instituted in the very beginning of Israel’s history, when God brought that people, by the hand of Moses, the Mediator of the Law Covenant, out of the land of Egypt. To this type the Apostle refers in his expression, “The Church of the First-born.” The entire nation of Israel, twelve tribes, God had separated from the other nations to represent those who would be a blessing to all other nations, under the Abrahamic Covenant. God’s oath to Abraham was: “In thy Seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” — Genesis 12:3; 28:14.

Pharaoh, King of Egypt, was holding back the nation from going into Palestine, the Land of Promise. One chastisement after another failed to move him to submission until finally an intense calamity availed. The tenth plague was the smiting of the first-born of Egypt, while the Israelites were protected, thus showing Divine interest in and care over Israel. Their first-born were miraculously preserved — to represent in type the Church of the First-born. The true Church of Christ are not all that will be saved, in the Divine Program, but merely, as St. James says, “These are a kind of first-fruits unto God of His creatures” (James 1:18; Revelation 14:4.) The after-fruits will come in due time, under the further development of the Divine Plan of the Ages — as the result of Messiah’s reign of a thousand years.

Some time after their deliverance from Egypt, by Divine direction, the first-borns of all the families and tribes of Israel were exchange, person by person, for the one tribe of Levi. The Levites thereafter represented the first-borns of the Church — they alone represented the first-borns of Israel passed over in that night. Subsequently the tribe of Levi became the instructor of the nation in religious matters and from them was chosen one family for the Priesthood — Aaron and his sons.

The Scriptural picture is plain. In the antitype we are still in the night of passing over. Soon the Morning of the New Dispensation, under Messiah’s reign, will begin, and all desirous of serving God and having His blessings will be delivered from the oppressing power of Satan and his hosts, typified by Pharaoh and his army. God intends to deliver the whole world from Satan’s power. Satan shall be bound for a thousand years, during Messiah’s reign, and is ultimately to be destroyed, and the people of God — all who desire to worship [[Jehovah]] and to enter into the glorious Land of Promise — will be led forth. (Isaiah 2:2-4; Revelation 20:1-4) The first-born of these is the Church of this Gospel Age, which will be associated with Christ in His heavenly Kingdom — “the Church of the First-born, whose names are written in heaven.”


The entire tribe of Levi was especially consecrated to [[Jehovah]], and especially separate from the other tribes and was given no inheritance in the land. Thus the entire Church of Christ are begotten of the Holy Spirit to a superior, heavenly nature; they will have no inheritance with mankind in general in the earthly blessings — restitution to human perfection and participation in the blessings of the world-wide Eden to be. The promise under which they are now being developed is a heavenly, spiritual one. Their change will be a glorious one from earthly nature to a heavenly nature — they will all be like Christ. “They will neither marry nor be given in marriage, but will (in this) be like unto the angels; neither can they die any more.” — Luke 20:35,36.
But as from amongst those first-borns of Israel the family of Aaron was selected to be the priests, so from this Church of the First-borns God shows us that He is selecting a Royal Priesthood — a “little flock.” Aaron and his sons were few in comparison to all the tribe of Levi, so only a saintly few expect to attain to glory, honor and immortality with Christ. These are referred to in the Scriptures as “members of the Body of Christ,” even as the under-priests, Aaron’s son’s, in the type, were members of Aaron. Under another beautiful figure this Priestly few are styled the “Bride of Christ,” and His joint heirs in His Kingdom and work

As these Levites, including the priests, were elected, or selected, for the purpose of being the instructors of Israel, so we perceive the Scriptures to teach that the Church of the First-born, when glorified, will be associated with Messiah in His great work of blessing and instructing all the people — all the families of the earth. The knowledge of [[Jehovah]] at that time will be made known to all mankind; all the blind eyes shall be opened and all the deaf ears shall be unstopped. (Isaiah 11:9; 35:5) All the Levite class will share in the work of blessing, which [[Jehovah]] for so many centuries has declared through the mouth of all the holy Prophets. — Galatians 3:29.

The merit of the death of Jesus, the Just for the unjust, when applied on behalf of the whole world, will be efficacious for the cancelling of the sins of the world, and their full reconciliation to the Father. It will be Divine mercy, however, which will prevent mankind from being at once turned over directly to the Father, as soon as the satisfaction for their sins shall have been tendered and accepted at the close of this Age of dealing with the Church. Instead a New Law Covenant will be sealed and made operative with Israel, and under that new Covenant the whole world will be privileged to come into relationship with Messiah and the blessings of His Kingdom, which will represent to them Divine mercy, power and opportunity for returning to human perfection and an everlasting, earthly home — or, rejecting this grace, they will die the Second Death, from which there will be no recovery. — Psalm 37:9,10,29; Matthew 25:46; Hebrews 10:26; Revelation 20:11-15; 21:7,8; 22:14,15.

The effect of the New Covenant will be to bring the willing and obedient of all the people of earth fully back into harmony with God; and this, attained at the end of Messiah’s reign of a thousand years, will prepare the way for the surrender of everything to the Heavenly Father, that He may be all in all, and that the world thereafter may be dealt with as perfect beings, along the lines of absolute justice and without any further need of a Mediator or other merciful provisions.


This is the pith of St. Paul’s argument in our text and context. He points us down to the consummation of this Age — to the time when the Church of the First-born shall be completed on the plane of glory — to the time when Israel and the world of mankind will reach the place where God will introduce the New Covenant, typified in the Law Covenant. As the latter was introduced by the shaking of Sinai, in a general time of darkness, thus, the Apostle intimates, the New Covenant is about to be inaugurated, in the end of this Age, by a time of most awful trouble, of which that at Sinai was merely a symbolic picture or type. God’s voice then shook the earth, but in the antitype He will shake everything that can be shaken. Things which are absolutely just, true and righteous will remain unshaken, and we, the Church of the First-born, the antitypical Priesthood, will receive a Kingdom which cannot be shaken.


In the past we failed to see who would be member of the true Church because our eyes of understanding were beclouded by error. Similarly, we have failed to see the grandeur, the honor and blessing which God has promised shall be the portion of the one true Church, the “little flock.” We mixed heavenly things with earthly things. We confounded the blessing of Restitution to human perfection and an earthly Eden with the spiritual blessing. We appropriated to ourselves the promises made to the faithful of Israel, that they should “build houses and inhabit them, and plant vineyards and eat the fruit of them, and should long enjoy the work of their hands.” In general we were confused.

Now as we come to see God’s great Plan and the different features of the same, we are able to discriminate and to apply properly the Scriptures relating to each class. The Royal Priesthood are to be joint-heirs with the Redeemer, partakers of the divine nature and sharers of their Lord’s glory, honor and immortality (Romans 2:7) The larger company, symbolized by all the Levites, aside from the family of Aaron, are to be the honored servants of the Royal Priesthood; and the world of mankind are to have the glorious opportunities and blessings of earthly restitution.

Only the consecrated and spirit-begotten can have any share in the selection and salvation now in progress, and these must all be tested as to loyalty to God, to the Truth, and to the spirit of righteousness and the spirit of love. The “little flock,” the priestly few who are to share the divine nature, will be composed of such as have demonstrated their loyalty to  [[Jehovah]] most satisfactorily. They will be copies of His dear Son, their Redeemer and Lord. This is the one, true Church. To membership in it is our “high calling”. The spirit which every member of it must have is the Holy Spirit. The faith acceptance by each member in it is “the faith once delivered unto the saints;” the baptism to which every member of it must voluntarily submit is the baptism into Christ’s death. “If we be dead with Him we shall also live with Him.” — Romans 6:8.

We present the above so that all may see how Russell viewed the true church. We do not necessarily agree with all details of his conclusions, but we are in general agreement the basic idea he presents.
We have restored the Holy Name as [[Jehovah]] and added some scriptural references that were not included in the original; we have also expanded the names of the books of  scriptural references to aid in searches for scriptural references through search engines.

Monday, March 16, 2020

No Salvation Until Russell?

The question has arisen in a Facebook group concerning Russell that left the impression that Russell in some way had taught that salvation was through him or through the Watch Tower Society. This evidently projects the JW teaching of coming to the organization for salvation back to Russell. One, evidently based on this assumption, asked if this would mean that no one was saved between the first century until Russell.

Our reply:

Russell believed that, due to the ransom sacrifice of Jesus, Adam and absolutely all of Adam's descendants are saved from the condemnation in Adam.

Russell himself never taught that anyone had to come to him, or to the Watch Tower Society, for salvation. His belief was that salvation is only through Jesus, not through joining a denomination, a sect, or some organization such as the Jehovah's Witnesses.

Unlike the JWs, Russell was a non-sectarian who believed that the true church is made up of people of all denominations that profess to be Christian. Russell preached against the idea that anyone (including himself) should assume divine authority over fellow Christians.

Russell Regarding Authority and Organization:

Russell and Jehovah's Witnesses

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Responses to Comments

The claim is being made that the truth is that Russell used photos taken directly from freemason books. The freemason book of magic, ect.

Those Bible Students who worked on the Photo Drama of Creation evidently sought to find public domain pictures that could be used in the making of the Photo Drama, and many sources were used. It is possible that some pictures from the Freemasons who believe in the Bible may have been used in this connection, although we have found no direct evidence of such. The reality is that such a claim appears to be made based solely on conjecture.

While we are not certain what "book" is being referred to as the Freemason "book of magic," there is definitely no reason to believe that Russell took photos from any book of magic.

We have beem asked to carefully watch this video and all the photos in it:

The video linked to is marked unavailable/private. We are not allowed to watch it. We suspect that it is the same video that we watched some time ago which actually embeds images into the Photo-Drama that were actually not used in the original Photo Drama, thus making it appear that Russell actually used exact images as are used by the Masons. Indeed, we also suspect that this is the reason that the video was made private. If this is the same video, we exposed this in the comments, although we suspect that our comments were removed.

Here are some links to the actual Photo-Drama of Creation:

Otherwise, we would need to know exactly what photos in the actual Photo-Drama we are supposed to note, and what publication of the Masons such were taken from.

The claim is made that Jesus did not dress up like the politicians and establishment of this world. He critisized them for it.

No scripture is given, and we are not sure what is being referred to as being Jesus' criticism of how the politicians of the world dressed. Nor is it stated how this is supposed to relate to Russell.

We believe, however, that Jesus dressed in the common style of the day.

Evidently, however, the remark is made as a criticism of the way Brother Russell dressed, although it is not stated as to what is being objected to regarding the way Brother Russell dressed. We do not think Russell dressed any different from many ministers of various denominations of his time. However, he certainly did not dress with the distinctive clerical garb that is the custom of clerics in many denominations. Russell, like Jesus, did not promote a clergy/laity distinction.

Jesus did make some criticism of the scribes, not especially of their clothing itself, but of their attitude related to their clothing consisting of long robes. -- Mark 12:38; Luke 20:46.

There is little evidence in the Bible in the Bible of how Jesus dressed, but it does not appear that he dressed any different from what was the custom of that time and region. That Jesus did not deem it wrong to wear long robes can be seen from the description given to Jesus in Revelation 1:13.

The claim is made that Christ did not teach doctrines not found in the Word of God.

Yes, this is true. Evidently, however, the implication of the claim is that Russell did teach doctrines not found in the Bible.

Jesus, of course, having been given a body of flesh from God Himself (Hebrews 10:5), did not have the sinful flesh of men who are condemned in Adam (Romans 5:12-19; 8:3), and absolutely everything he did and said is truth. The "one God" who is the Heavenly Father anointed and sent Jesus (Isaiah 61:1; John 17:1,3), prepared a body of flesh for Jesus (Hebrews 10:5), and made Jesus a little lower than the angels so that Jesus could offer that body of flesh with its blood to Jehovah his God for our sins.  (Matthew 26:26-28; Luke 22:19; Romans 3:25; Colossians 1:14; Ephesians 5:2; Hebrews 2:9; 9:14; 10:10; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18; 1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5) Jesus was the prophet like Moses, who spoke the words of Jehovah is God with error or mistake. -- Deuteronomy 18:15-19;

Russell, however, never claimed to have such perfection of truth. Indeed, he consistently denied such, and admitted the possibility of error in some things. He did make mistakes, but he certainly endeavored to not teach as doctrine what is not found in the Word of God. Thus he rejected such doctrines as the trinity, inherent immortal human soul/spirit, conscious eternal suffering, etc.

The claim is made that Christ did not rent an office to practice his Christianity in. 

Again, the implication evidently is that Russell did rent an office to practice his Christianity in. While we don't know that Russell ever rented an office to practice Christianity, we don't know of any scripture that says one should not rent an office as part of his service to Christ.

Russell, did, however, have an office which he used as a study. I suppose Russell could have fulfilled his consecration to follow Christ without such an office, but the office he had was simply a tool that he used in his consecration to Christ.

On the other hand, nearly every pastor of every church of every denomination has an office which he uses for his work. If Russell is to be condemned for having an office, what about these?

Related to the above, Jesus statement, "Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head" is quoted (Matthew 8:20; Luke 9:58), with the claim that the disciple is NOT greater than his master (Matthew 10:24; Luke 6:40), and it is claimed that everyone that is perfect shall be as his master! And then it is stated: "Russell was not!"

This seems to be misusing the scriptures to say that unless one has nowhere to lay his head, then that person is not a disciple of Christ! The only logical conclusion from what is stated is that anyone who has a bed or some place in which to sleep must not be a disciples of Christ!! Did all the early Christians in the first century not have a place to lay their head? Did none of them own houses with a place to lay their heads?

Russell, of course, never claimed to be perfect in his flesh. He definitely never claimed that he was perfect so that he could never make a mistake.

The claim is being made that Jesus never said he was part of a devil worshiping cult knowing his followers would "understand!!!

Again, the implication evidently is that Russell did say he was part of devil worshiping cult, knowing that his followers would understand. Russell never claimed such a ridiculous thought, nor was Russell part of any devil worshiping cult. The only "cult" that Russell advocated was that of belonging only to Christ, and that one should follow Christ. Applying the above to what Russell did say would, in effect, mean that anyone who states that he belongs to Christ is part of a devil worshiping cult. Unlike the Jehovah's Witnesses' leadership, Russell did not promote the Bible Students as being "the true religion." He never spoke of the Bible Students as being a religion at all. He did speak of "the true church," which he described as follows:

(1913) The one true Church, dear friends, is the church of the Bible. There never has been but that one true Church. All others are false, and if I built up another church I would be building up another false one. That is not our proposition at all. The I.B.S.A. holds out the proposition which the Bible stands for, namely, that all people who are trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ, and consecrated to follow in his steps, are of the church of the living God whose names are written in heaven. The I.B.S.A. recognizes no other church. It does not say that only those in the I.B.S.A. constitute the church. It recognizes that all true Christians in the various churches should be awake, and we are trying to awaken them to the truth. The I.B.S.A. recognizes that these true Christian people are in danger of falling into infidelity, unless they get the true light of God's Word, and so is trying to bring all Christian people to study the Bible, and thus into complete union as the church of Christ. -- What Pastor Russell Said, page 348.

In his book, The New Creation, Russell wrote:

    No earthly organization can grant a passport to heavenly glory. The most bigoted sectarian (aside from the Romanist) will not claim, even, that membership in his sect will secure heavenly glory. All are forced to admit that the true Church is the one whose record is kept in heaven, and not on earth. They deceive the people by claiming that it is needful to come to Christ through them – needful to become members of some sectarian body in order to become members of "the body of Christ," the true Church. On the contrary, the Lord, while he has not refused any who came to him through sectarianism, and has turned no true seeker away empty, tells us that we need no such hindrances, but could much better have come to him direct. He cries, "Come unto me"; "take my yoke upon you, and learn of me"; "my yoke is easy and my burden is light, and ye shall find rest to your souls." Would that we had given heed to his voice sooner. We would have avoided many of the heavy burdens of sectism, many of its bogs of despair, many of its doubting castles, its vanity fairs, its lions of worldly-mindedness, etc.
    Surely all know that whenever they join any of these human organizations, accepting its Confession of Faith as theirs, they bind themselves to believe neither more nor less than that creed expresses on the subject. If, in spite of the bondage thus voluntarily yielded to, they should think for themselves, and receive light from other sources, in advance of the light enjoyed by the sect they have joined, they must either prove untrue to the sect and to their covenant with it, to believe nothing contrary to its Confession, or else they must honestly cast aside and repudiate the Confession which they have outgrown, and come out of such a sect. To do this requires grace and costs some effort, disrupting, as it often does, pleasant associations, and exposing the honest truth-seeker to the silly charges of being a "traitor" to his sect, a "turncoat," one "not established," etc. When one joins a sect, his mind is supposed to be given up entirely to that sect, and henceforth not his own. The sect undertakes to decide for him what is truth and what is error; and he, to be a true, staunch, faithful member, must accept the decisions of his sect, future as well as past, on all religious matters, ignoring his own individual thought, and avoiding personal investigation, lest he grow in knowledge, and be lost as a member of such sect. This slavery of conscience to a sect and creed is often stated in so many words, when such a one declares that he "belongs" to such a sect.
    These shackles of sectarianism, so far from being rightly esteemed as shackles and bonds, are esteemed and worn as ornaments, as badges of respect and marks of character. So far has the delusion gone, that many of God's children would be ashamed to be known to be without some such chains – light or heavy in weight, long or short in the personal liberty granted. They are ashamed to say that they are not in bondage to any sect or creed, but "belong" to Christ only.
-- The New Creation, pages 185-187.

It is claimed that Christ did not speak of a "new order" as Freemasons do!

Again, the implication appears to be that Russell did speak of a "new order" as the Freemasons do! Actually, Brother Russell did not speak of a "new order" as Freemasons do, nor as many ascribe conspiracy ideas to the Freemaons and a "new order"! Jesus did speak of the "age to come," often rendered as "world to come." (Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30) That age to come will certainly be a new order, a new heavens and new earth (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1-5), but not after the manner taught by the Freemasons. Russell did, at times, refer to the age to come as being a new order, but not in the sense that the Freemasons are spoken of as referring to a new order. Most Freemasons have no genuine idea of the new order as promised in the Bible. Russell rarely used the expression "new order" without adding "of things," that is "new order of things." The word "order", however, is based mostly on forms of the Biblical Greek word often transliterated as KOSMOS, as well as forms of the word often transliterated as AION, both of which are often translated as "world".
One of the meanings of KOSMOS is "order"

It is claimed that in fact Russell said he would not dare speak a word against these devil worshipers and that some of his very dear friends are freemasons.

Again, this misquotes and misrepresents two things Russell stated by taking them out of context, and by putting them together with added words to make it appear that Russell condoned freemaonry and worship of the devil. He definitely did not condone man's Freemason Society, and plainly stated such. Russell definitely did not condone worship of the devil or any actions of others related to worship of the devil.

Russell did seem to be under the impression that all the Freemasons professed to be Christian, and thus he seemed to classify them as a Christian sect. As he believed that all sectarianism will be destroyed and not allowed to continue to exist in the Kingdom, he also believed that the Freemasons organization would cease to exist, and not be allowed to continue into the age to come. Believing that the Freemasons professed to be Christian, Russell did not describe them as "devil worshipers." In the broad sense, anyone who has not been regenerated by the blood of Christ could be referred to as a worshiper of the devil, and even those regenerated could fall into various acts that could be referred to as worshiping the devil. In that more than likely most Freemasons had not been regenerated as a child of God, one could say in a broad sense that those unregenerated Freemasons were devil worshipers, although Russell never spoke of such.

Russell stated (we do not necessarily agree with all his applications of scripture):
You will notice that we never have anything to say against any of these. We have not said an unkind word about Freemasonry, and you never read anything unkind that we have ever said about it, and I do not wish to say anything unkind about Presbyterianism, or Methodism. I think that many of the dear friends in these denominations are good people, and I appreciate their characters. What I talk about sometimes is Presbyterian doctrine, and they talk about it, too. And I have read things they have said about Presbyterian doctrines far harder than anything I have ever said. I sometimes quote in the Watch Tower some things Presbyterians say about their own doctrine, and I occasionally quote in the Watch Tower something the Methodists say about their doctrine, because they say it stronger than I should wish to say it.
The Lord did not send me to preach against Masonry or Odd Fellowship, nor against Presbyterianism or Methodism. Our opportunity is to tell the truth, to preach the true gospel of Christ, and the Lord says that this message is to have its effects on the different hearts. Now, if you find yourself in any kind of a bundle, you know that is not the program so far as the wheat is concerned. The wheat is to he gathered into the garner; it is not to be put into bundles in the present life.

At that particular time and place, Russell was not saying anything against the Freemasons, or against Presbyerianism or Methodism, etc., but elsewhere he did:
We note also that the Order of Free Masons, if judged by its past history, has some secret object or scheme, more than fraternity and financial aid in time of sickness or death. And, so far as we can judge, there is a certain amount of profane worship or mummery connected with the rites of this order and some others, which the members do not comprehend, but which, in many cases, serves to satisfy the cravings of the natural mind for worship, and thus hinders it from seeking the worship of God in spirit and in truth--through Christ, the only appointed Mediator and Grand Master.
In proportion as such societies consume valuable time in foolish, senseless rites and ceremonies, and in substituting the worship of their officers, and the use of words and symbols which have no meaning to them, for the worship of God, in his appointed way -- through Christ, and according to knowledge and the spirit of a sound mind -- in that proportion these societies are grievous evils, regardless of the financial gains or losses connected with membership in them.
Such societies, on selfish business principles, are foreign to the spirit of God's Church. In it, those who have this world's goods should be ready to assist the needy of the Lord's family, hoping for nothing again. And all who are members of the true Church whose names are written in heaven, all who have the spirit of the Head, will be willing and anxious to do good unto all men as they have opportunity, especially to the household of faith, who are not leaning upon earthly Societies, but who, instead of spending "dues" in that way, are using their means to serve the Lord, his truth and his people.

For links to some of research related Russell and the Freemasons:

Brother Russell seemed to think all the Freemasons claimed to be Christian, and thus classified them as a whole as bundle of tares - which he believed to be false Christians, and that the Freemasons, as an organization, was a symbolic bundle of symbolic tares that was to be destroyed in the symbolic fiery furnace of the time of trouble. Since Freemasonry does not profess to be Christian, classifying it as a bundle of tares does not actually fit, although the application could -- in a sense -- apply to the Knights Templar, who do profess to be Christian. We do believe that the Freemason organization as a whole may be included as a "rock", as spoken of in Revelation 6:16. That organization will definitely not be allowed to continue to exist into the Kingdom Age, and any held captive in that organization will be set free to come to Christ.

For some of Russell's comments on the Freemasons:

Russell did speak of some of his friends who are Freemasons; as stated before, however, he evidently believed that all Masons professed to be Christian. Nevertheless, Russell, however, often used the term "dear friends" many without meaning that he considered such "friends" to be spiritually close to him. Russell also spoke of his dear friends who are Methodists, Baptists, and of other denominations and organizations. His usage of such language definitely does not mean that he condoned the practices or teachings of any of those organizations.

Russell, however, believed that most who professed to be Christian that are in the various denominations are actually represented by the tares in the parable of the wheat and tares, false Christians, but, he did not claim that absolutely all in the denominations are represented as tares.

It is claimed that Jesus would never choose the meeting place of admitted Satanist to meet with his disciples.

Evidently it is being thought that Russell did choose the meeting place of admitted Satanists to meet with fellow believers. Strictly speaking, anyone who does not belong the Christ is still part of Satan's seed, and thus could be referred to as a Satanist. Most Freemasons, at least in Russell's day, however, did profess to belong to Christ, although most of them were probably not actually consecrated to Christ.

The whole world is being mislead by Satan. (Revelation 12:9) The whole world lies in the power of the evil one. (1 John 5:19) There is no place on earth as such that one can say absolutely is free of Satan's influence. Basically, the whole world is full of liars who, in effect, worship Lucifer (Satan). We are already in, so to speak, a den of demon worshipers by simply being born into this world.

Those who have been regenerated in Christ, however, are not perfect in the flesh, and thus, in the flesh, such may also be found to be subject to telling lies - whether due to weakness of the flesh, or through ignorance, and to such a degree, could be unknowingly serving Lucifer in those specific acts. Such of the flesh, however, is separate from the new creature, which is totally sinless in Christ.

The children of God in a world that has Satan as its prince/god (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; 2 Corinthians 4:3,4) still has to deal with those of the the world, regardless of what those of the world may believe or practice. (1 Corinthians 5:9,10) If in a land that is full of Buddhists, if the children of God wish to rent a room for a meeting, they will probably have to rent from Buddhists who may have Buddhist symbolism in that room. If in India, they may have to rent from Hindus, etc. Russell and the Bible Students have rented rooms, probably from the cheapest of acceptable options, which included rooms owned by Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, and many other denominational churches, the US Armory, Elks lodges, Odd-Fellow Lodges, schools, universities, etc., as well as Masonic lodges, with no thought at all of agreement with the teachings or practices of any of these groups or organizations. The freedom from God is knowledge that whatever religious idolatrous practices and beliefs held by the owners of such building can have no hold upon those who are set free by Christ. And yet there is always the tendency of the flesh to set up bondage to this or that man, or group of men, which is, as the apostle Paul explained, carnal reasoning. -- 1 Corinthians 3:1-4.

Jesus, however, spoke of the Scribes and Pharisees as being children of Satan, and doing the works of Satan. (John 8:41-44) Most of the synagogues of that day were owned by such Scribes and Pharisees. Did Jesus refuse to make use of those synagogues? -- Matthew 4:23; 12:9; 13:54; Mark 1:21; 3:1; 6:2; etc.

It is claimed that we and the JWs have invented our own religion, and do not follow Christ.

Indeed, unlike the JWs, our only endeavor is to follow Christ as best as we are able. It is indeed old, going back to Christ and the apostles, and definitely based on the Bible itself, not the Masons. Rutherford, however, did indeed invent his own religion, which named "Jehovah's Witnesses."

While we do not believe that there is to be a world revolution leading to anarchy is to be actual doctrine, the Bible prophecies do indicate such; this belief, however, is not based on anything taught by the Masons, although the Masons may have a share in such revolutions. We do believe that all sectarianism, however is wrong in God eyes, even the sectarianism that may have crept into the Bible Students movement. Such sectarianism will be destroyed and all held as captives of such will be freed.

It is evidently claimed that we believe that Jerusalem below is the New Jerusalem.

We are not sure where this is coming from. We ourselves have never made such a statement. We do believe the heavenly New Jersualem will make use of Jerusalem below, especially after Satan has been cast into the abyss, in order to enlighten the world concerning the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and concerning the Messiah sent by God. The Jerusalem below must, however, accept their Messiah before this can take place.

Russell certainly did not believe the the Jerusalem below is the New Jerusalem, nor do we know of any of the Bible Students who believe such.

Some statements of Brother Russell regarding the "New Jerusalem":

The period of the reign of Sin and Death is represented as the time when God "remembered not his footstool in the day of his anger" (Lam. 2:1); but following the beginning of the Millennium, the people are prophetically called upon to – "Exalt the Lord our God and worship at his footstool, for he is worthy." (Psa. 99:5) And this thought, that the establishment of the New Jerusalem, the Church of God glorified, as the new government in the earth, will mean the beginning of the restoration of divine favor to Jehovah's footstool, is clearly set forth through the Prophet Zechariah (14:4,5). -- The Battle of Armageddon, page 649.

It is well also to distinguish clearly between the New Jerusalem, the heavenly or spiritual city of which the apostles are the twelve foundations, and the old Jerusalem which is to be rebuilt upon her old heaps. The old Jerusalem's promised restoration implies not merely the reconstruction of the buildings, etc., but specially the reorganization of Israel's government; for a city in prophecy is always the symbol or representation of a government. Hence the promised reconstruction of Jerusalem upon her old foundations implies a national reorganization of Israel upon a basis similar to that which it formerly had, as a people over whom Jehovah's Anointed held the authority. The New Jerusalem represents the Gospel Church in glory and Kingdom power, spiritual, and invisible to men, yet all-powerful. Its descent to earth (Rev. 21:2) marks the fulfilment of that petition of our Lord's prayer which says, "Thy Kingdom come"; and its "coming" will be gradual, and not sudden. It is already "coming down," coming into control, and as a result we see the preliminary steps leading to the re-establishment of the old Jerusalem; and ultimately the result mentioned in our Lord's prayer will be realized – God's will will be done on earth as in heaven. The New Jerusalem and the New Heavens are synonymous, signifying the new spiritual ruling power. -- Thy Kingdom Come, page 258.

QUESTION--Will the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2) be a literal city of gold and gems, and will it come floating down through the sky and locate somewhere on the earth? If so, how, when, and where?

ANSWER--We are aware that quite a number seem to hold the thought of an actual city, with all of its walls, buildings, towers and turrets, coming down from above and locating in the land of Palestine. Those who have this thought should try to bear in mind that much of the Bible is written in highly symbolic or figurative language. The dimensions of this city are given in furlongs in this same chapter. If we reduce these to miles, we have for the dimensions fifteen hundred miles in length and breadth and height. A city of this magnitude could scarcely be placed in the small land of Palestine, which measures less than two hundred miles in its greatest length. By noting the expressions of the 9th verse, it will become apparent to all that not a literal city is referred to, but a symbolic one is meant. The angel showed St. John "The Bride, the Lamb's wife," in symbol, as a beautiful city. Surely no one would so far ignore the faculties of intelligence and reason as to say that the Bride of Christ is to be a literal city. This Bride is the same one represented as saying, in almost the closing words of the Bible, "Come and partake of the waters of life freely." The Bride is the Church class composed of the faithful followers of Christ, of whom the Apostle Paul speaks, saying: "I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ" (2 Cor. 11:2). --What Pastor Russell Said, page 789.