IT has been suggested, dear friends, that I should say first something respecting the International Bible Students' Association; why there is such an association, what right there is to have such an association, and whether there is such an association. I do not exactly understand the purport of the questioner. I can say, however, dear friends, that the International Bible Students' Association is so called because no other name would better suit the circumstances and conditions as we know them. The International Bible Students are those Christian people all over the world who are studying God's Word and desiring to know the real meaning of that Word. We are not attempting to sail under the name of any denominational banner; instead, we believe that Christian people in general have reason to conclude that there is something seriously wrong with nearly all those Christian systems, that they were organized in the dark ages more or less, and more or less they are all in conflict in their teachings, and more or less they contradict each other, and more or less they acknowledge that they themselves are seeking more light. Therefore, instead of crystallizing any saying we will make a new denomination, we say, on the contrary, No, there are already too many--about six hundred --and each of them more or less representing a different Gospel. We must all acknowledge that there is but one Gospel of the Lord Jesus; so the Scriptures tell us: "One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one Father and God of all, and one Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ," and one "Church of the first born, whose names are written in heaven." How, then, so many churches and so many denominations? I said a moment ago that our different denominations represent so many different creeds, or different views of the Gospel of Christ. Some might be inclined to challenge that and say, No, all people believe in one doctrine. But, my dear friends, that is an error. There was a sufficiency of difference in the views of the past to cause our forefathers to make new denominations, one after another, to express their different views. Each differed something from the other, else why are there more than one, and the difference between the denominations, as we all agree, is a different view of the Gospel message of the Lord Jesus. I am glad indeed that there are many things common amongst us all -- One God and Father, and one Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I am glad indeed that the majority of Christian people recognize the great fundamental proof that Christ died, and that we must have faith in His blood. I am glad there is so much in common amongst Christian people, but there is considerable still that is not in accord. As a matter of fact, Christian people say there is no hope of our getting together in common harmony and understanding of God's Word. I will not go into that part now, to discuss that, because it is the subject the friends have chosen for me for Saturday night in this same room. It had not been arranged for me to speak here, but because of a little commotion in the paper an arrangement was made for me to speak Saturday night respecting the "One true Church of Christ."
Now I am calling your attention to the fact that there is an association called the International Bible Students' Association; it has been in existence for some thirty years, composed of Christian people out of all denominations and of all nationalities, and in all parts of the world, and whether you stepped into a Bible class in San Francisco, Portland, Brooklyn, New York, Toronto, Canada, Nova Scotia, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, or wherever you find them, they would be of one mind and spirit, because they are drawing their inspiration from the Word of God, and not from any human creeds of the past. We are seeking to know what God has said, and not merely preaching the creeds of the past. If we have an inspired word of God, and if we believe Jesus and the Apostles spoke by inspiration, why take what some one spoke in the fifteenth, twelfth or fifth century? Why not go back to the fountain head and get it pure from the great founder, through whom God said the streams of Truth should come to all hungering for the water and bread of life? This, my friends, is what the International Bible Students are seeking to do, to get the pure teachings of the Word of God. Neither do they find any unnecessary objections to people who differ. On the contrary, they have the broadest sympathy for all denominations, the Episcopalians the Roman Catholics, the Presbyterians, Baptists, etc.; they have sympathy as brethren, because they believe that all these people who are up to their own standard are seeking to know and understand the Word of God. If they follow not with us, very well, let them follow the Lord the best they can. If later they see this is the better way to grow and assist one another, very well, at that time we will be glad to welcome them. If that time should never come we will still bid them God-speed and rejoice as we see them progressing in doing God's will as they see it. So then, my dear friends, we have no antagonism to other Christian people. Indeed, this is one of the points and reasons why the Church is divided by the various creeds. Our Presbyterian friends are fenced off by their creed, and the Methodists are not in it; the Methodists by their creed, and the Presbyterians are not in it. So with all the various denominations. And, in reality, all are ready to confess that all are man-made, not having come from Jesus, the Apostles, or the prophets. We say then, why permit them to separate the children of God? Why should not all God's people be Bible students? Why should any prefer to have the name Baptist, or Methodist, or Calvinist, or Wesleyan, or Lutheran --why prefer these to the name which God gave His people--Christians, pure and simple? So we prefer to be known simply as Christians. So, whether we were Presbyterians, Baptists, or Catholics, we are glad that we can come together and see the fallacy of having been divided. We say, let us be one with God's people, no matter what denomination they are in and give them the right hand of fellowship and receive the same from them as they are willing, and then journey on toward the heavenly Kingdom.
This International Bible Students' Association, then, my dear friends, has in it people from all denominations, and when any come to the study of God's word and have received the spirit of the Truth, it gives them the spirit of a sound mind, especially when they consider the Word of God, and from this standpoint all the words of men seem as nothing. One word from God is worth a thousand from men. We are not wishing to get away from this condition, for it is a most blessed one and helps one to grow in the graces and knowledge and fruits of the Holy Spirit. This is what God intended when He gave His message, and this is the fruitage He expects. We are glad we realize it more and more, and are not satisfied, but going on and on. And, if our heavenly Father has more to show us in coming days or years, we shall be glad to receive every good word of God, and if any dear brothers, Presbyterians, Methodists, Roman Catholics, or others can call our attention to anything in God's Word that we have overlooked or misunderstood, they will be our friends. We will not feel that they must be throttled because they know something different from what we know. We will be glad to receive instructions from any one capable of giving us instruction.
The International Bible Students' Association is chartered and I am very much surprised to know that your ministerial association, among whom I would presume are men somewhat learned in the affairs of life, has never before heard of the International Bible Students' Association. It is known all over the world, and there are millions and millions of pages of literature distributed all over the world, published in at least twelve different languages. There are three or four in the languages of India, in Chinese, Japanese, Holland, Dano Norwegian, Greek, Roumanian, Russian and, of course in English. It is very strange that your ministerial association has not had more knowledge than this, and that they should think we are intruding upon them or to give the impression that we are laboring under their auspices. Nothing further from the facts of the case. Surely we never made any appeal to them, and nothing gives you the indication that we did. We would not think of it. We would not sail under the poor flag of the Baptists, the Roman Catholics, etc.; not any other flag than the Lord Jesus Christ. Is that right? We think it is right. So, my dear friends, we meet here under the auspices of our God and Father, and Lord Jesus Christ, and with the full commission of the Divine Word of God, with the full authority of the constitution of the United States, and with the full chartered right of the International Bible Students' Association, which was chartered in Great Britain. So, my friends, I hope you have a little better knowledge of what the International Bible Students' Association is. We have no thought of claiming to be of any other sect, or a part of any of them. We desire to bring the Word of God into touch with every Christian mind in the world; we try to get the people to study the Bible, instead of the creeds of the dark ages. How much did we ever gain from studying the creeds of the dark ages? Think of Brother Calvin and what it did for him! What a blot upon a good man's name, that he was a persecutor of Christians, and burned Brother Servitus at the stake. I never knew until lately the particulars of the burning. Poor Servitus was not burned after the manner of Latimer and others by our Roman Catholic friends. Instead of the fire being started near him so that the flames would come up about him and quickly suffocate him, we now learn that the fire was built about ten feet all around him, and he was literally roasted alive for five hours. Think of that! Is it not a most horrible blot! We hardly think of the devil doing such a thing. The devil is no friend of mine, but still I would not want to accuse him, or Brother Calvin, of doing such a thing. Brother Calvin's creed was at the bottom of it. If he had not had that devilish creed he never would have acted that way.
His creed was not election, because that is taught in the Bible and was in the Bible 1,500 years before Calvin was born. The doctrine of election is a precious doctrine, but it was the doctrine of reprobation, that every man not elected to heaven was foreordained and predestinated before the time of his birth to go to an eternity of suffering, and that the devils would roast him through all eternity. Brother Calvin, being led by this theory, was ready to burn a Christian and as much as said I will roast him only four or five hours, but all eternity will not be enough to satisfy God.
Poor Calvin! How glad we ought to be, dear friends that something has occurred that has helped us to get rid of that horrible doctrine, else we might be burning each other today.
So then, dear friends, this convention has met here to worship God, to consider the terms and conditions of the great proposition made to humanity. We are here today because we are seeking to make our calling and election sure. We did not come here to convert Pertle Springs or Warrensburg, and, I venture to say that the people of Warrensburg have not been improperly urged or bored. However, I am sure all the dear friends will be glad to give freely what they have received freely, and which has brought such a blessing to our hearts. We are glad to give it, and give it freely. And all our meetings, you know, are without collection and without any fee for admission.
One minister in New York City said, What is Pastor Russell going to do! By and by our congregations will think it is a crime to take up a collection? We have hard enough time now, what will we do if we cannot take up a collection? My dear friends, we believe it does the people of God good to give money to benevolent purposes and to support some mission, and all that, but we do not think it in harmony with the Divine will that they should be bored and twisted in every way to get money out of them. We do not say a word about money, taking up collections, but they may take up collections two or three times a day if they choose. However, we believe we are doing the will of God more perfectly when we eliminate this matter. I don't suppose you hear a word about money here. Some of you have attended all kinds of conventions, but you never saw meetings carried on in just the same way; we are trying to carry it on after the manner of Jesus and the Apostles. We are not copying our Methodist, or Baptist friends, but we are not quarreling with them. If theirs is a better way, let them have it and be satisfied. Why should they be denied the privilege of worshiping God after their own conscience, and doing the things in the way most pleasing to them?
Our thought respecting collections is this: The heavenly Father tells us that all the gold and silver and the cattle on a thousand hills are His, and if He wished for anything He would not require to ask us. Our heavenly Father is rich and He makes us rich with world's goods, or influence, or time, in whatever proportion He thinks best, and we are to render these to the Lord according to our best judgment, glorify Him in body and spirit, which are His.
WHAT IS THE RESULT?
We have no trouble, because we merely spend what we have, not over-spend, and then have fairs, and grab bags in order to make up some deficit for what we have unwisely gone into debt for. We have the precedent set in the Scriptures. If we are satisfied, why should others complain? On the contrary, all these who are in this attitude of mind have great privilege in giving according to their substance and ability. It is a pleasure to give, but if it is pulled out of you, and you are bored, and a bag is put under your nose every few minutes, you would not feel good about it.
I remember a Reformed Presbyterian minister said, How is it done, Pastor Russell--where does it come from?
I said, Brother, if people's hearts are thoroughly united to the Lord, they will want to do something for the Father, the Saviour, the brethren, the children, and indeed you would have to restrain them from giving so much.
This minister looked at me as though he would say, Do you take me for a child that I should believe such stuff as that? I saw he was thinking that, so I said, Brother, it is true. Some say, Can I not get some money into that work? I have not much, but I would like to be associated in that work, and then they push the money under. Again he was surprised, because it had never been thus in the Reformed Presbyterian church.
Now, my dear brothers and sisters, think over this matter --What is the Lord's way? What is the example of Jesus and the Apostles? And then act according to your judgment, not mine; act according to your own judgment as to the way you can best glorify God in body and spirit. Then you will have a blessing from the Lord, whether or not you do just exactly as we do. All who are seeking to do the will of the Lord and are trusting in His precious blood as we are, are our dear brethren.
PASTOR RUSSELL'S REPLY TO PROFESSOR MOOREHEAD
I brought with me a copy of the resolution which your Ministerial Association published and I thought it might be perhaps a part of your desire this evening that I should answer these propositions.
"The convention is not under the auspices of the Evangelical denomination, nor yet authorized by any accredited Christian organization."
Of course you cannot tell what people mean by "accredited Christian organization." I cannot, at least, but perhaps some of the rest of you are wiser as respects this word. But if the International Bible Students' Association sounds like a Christian name, I can tell you that it is a Christian association. It is accredited in the sense that we accredit ourselves, whether anybody else cares to or not.
I do not suppose, my dear friends, that the Methodists are specially accredited by the Baptists, or the Baptists by the Roman Catholics, so where will you draw the line? I think the Baptists will accredit themselves, and the Catholics themselves, and so the International Bible Students' Association are quite competent to accredit themselves.
The next objection in these resolutions is that I am the author of Millennial Dawn.
Now, my dear friends, I cannot say that I am sorry I wrote Millennial Dawn, because it would not be true. I am very glad if the heavenly Father was pleased to have me write those six volumes, because I know of a surety that they have accomplished a great deal of good. I will not say that the Ministerial Association ever got any good out of it, nor Professor Moorehead, D.D., but there are others who have. I can tell you, and could show you letters from hundreds of infidels and Christians, who had lost their faith and did not know what to believe, but who were helped back to a faith in the Bible through these books. I will tell you about one of them. This gentleman came from Ithaca, New York, and while in the Watch Tower office, attending to some business, he saw the racks of literature, etc., and he noticed the people engaged and asked, What is this going on? The reply was, This is religious work, tracts, etc., being mailed all over the world. This gentleman afterwards explained it: He inquired of the lady at the counter and found her very intelligent respecting the Bible, and was surprised and said to himself, I wonder if others are equally well instructed respecting God's Word. So he went out and came back at a time when this lady was not there so as to speak to others. He said he was surprised for he asked questions and found a ready answer from all working there. He said, This is very strange! So he told me that was the reason for staying over two days, to attend the Sunday services, as I was to speak and he wanted to hear me. At the conclusion of the service he came up to shake hands, and said, I stopped over to hear you because of being interested in the people in the mailing office. I am sorry, Pastor Russell, it is of no avail to me. I have no Christian faith left.
How is that, you look like a Christian man?
Oh, indeed, I was an elder in the Christian church and was a Bible teacher in the Sunday School, and it was in connection with that work that I got into infidelity.
How was that?
This way: In the study of my lessons I wanted to get all the information that could be obtained and got some reference books, etc., and these were along the line of higher criticism and my faith was entirely undermined, and I now know that the Bible was nothing and that I was fooled in believing the Word of God. Now then I see that it is only human sentiment and not based upon faith. I stayed over because of curiosity, because there is nothing to build upon. When I lost my faith I did not stay with my class to teach them the higher criticism; I said, God forbid, I am sorry to have lost my faith and hope I will not help them into this terrible condition I am in. So I said nothing to anybody, but simply withdrew, resigned as teacher and elder in the church and simply stepped out. Neither will I stay there, and act a hypocrite and represent myself as teaching what I do not believe. As I was with those people in the mailing room I said, I used to have such a faith, too, and would like to have it back, but there is no chance.
Well, I said, there is a chance. I will tell you that I was once in a very similar position.
What, were you ever as I am and threw away your Bible?
Yes, in a very similar position. I thought it was unreasonable and that the Bible contradicted reason, and I threw it away for nearly two years; yet I was constantly feeling after God, desiring to know the truth.
Then you came back to the Bible?
Yes, in God's providence.
And you have such a faith as this now?
Yes, I believe it is the most wonderful book in the world. It is a thousand times better than all the creeds.
Well, Pastor Russell, that is the first gleam of hope and I feel that if it is possible that something brought Pastor Russell's faith back perhaps I can get that.
I said, Brother, I have a volume I will give you, if you will read it.
Surely I will read it.
I gave him the first volume, and he had it about eight days when a letter came from him, and he was so overflowing that he could hardly write, could hardly express himself, because of a feeling of gratitude in having his faith back, not only all that he had before, but now it was stronger and much better than anything he ever had before.
Now that has been duplicated in many instances from all denominations, and from Catholics also who have thrown away their Bibles. So, my dear friends, if our friend in the Ministerial Alliance of Warrensburg know nothing about Millennial Dawn some of us do know and I have no apology to make in connection with the books or their teachings. They represent exactly what I believe the Bible to teach. Furthermore, there are no ministers in Warrensburg or the whole state of Missouri who can contradict them. They may try to slander them just as our Brother Moorehead tried. Anybody can say something bad about the Bible, and many people have done it. I would like to know how many have contradicted the Bible and its teachings. How many in centuries? Yet Jesus and His teachings have stood and so will Millennial Dawn with those who have read it. It is those who have not read it or who are trying to refute it, reading with prejudice, and trying to slander. So we must have the spirit of truth before we can get the truth out of it.
PROFESSOR MOOREHEAD'S SUMMARY OF THE SO-CALLED FALSE DOCTRINES OF MILLENNIAL DAWN
We will now consider these propositions which Mr. Moorehead thinks are false doctrines as taught in Millennial Dawn
First, So-called false doctrines of Millennial Dawn.
"Christ before His advent was not divine."
Well now, let me say first of all that the object of the Professor stating these was not to make known such truths, because if he wished to make them know he would have said, Get the books and find out. On the contrary, his object was simply to prejudice the people so they would not get the books. That is an old trick. So the statement is put in such a form as to make it unreasonable.
But now, what do the Scriptures say? It is not what Professor Moorehead says, for we are not ready to take him instead of God, or the Lord Jesus, or the Apostles. What say the Scriptures? If I was to take up this one subject alone, of the pre-existence of our Lord Jesus Christ, it would take more than an hour. Then the other questions would be here still unanswered. So I must divide up between these and give a little on each subject; but remember that all these are treated in the six volumes of Millennial Dawn, or Studies in the Scriptures, and are so treated that Professor Moorehead cannot answer them, because they are thoroughly Scriptural, and he does not want the people to read, because they are Scriptural, and they would be converted if they did read.
What does Saint Paul say? You know Professor Moorehead's theory and the one we had--something that we never understood, and something that they never understood--the doctrine of the trinity. We had two ways of stating it: One says, it is three Gods in one person, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. They must say, one person, because the Bible says there is one living and true God, therefore they must get the one in somewhere. The others had to make that fit, so they turned it over and the more they think of it that three times one is three, they say, that does not sound right. There is one God in three persons. Now tell us what you do mean, and if they are honest they will say, we don't know; they don't know what they mean. I used to be with them and I knew that I did not know, and that they did not know.
Professor Moorehead would not think of discussing the proposition with me; he would just as soon take his life as to discuss it; he knows that he would have no foundation on which to set up his theory.
The Scriptures say that there is one God (not three Gods); that was the great point God made in telling the Israelites all through the Old Testament, "Hear O Israel, the Lord thy God is one Jehovah"--that is the way it reads. Did He say, the Lord thy God is three? No. Well how about the New Testament, does it contradict that? No, indeed. The Apostle Paul says to us (not to trinitarians nor to Brother Moorehead) but to all Christians who take the Bible, "To us there is one living and true God, the Father"-- that is to us. Then what more? "And there is one Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." That is but two. One and one equals two--one God the Father, and one Lord Jesus Christ. Then he proceeds to say, "One God, the Father, of whom are all things and one Lord Jesus Christ by whom are all things, and we by Him." That is the Bible. Is there any statement of the trinity in the Bible? Not a word; it does not occur in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Not a word about it.
Brother Russell, you must be mistaken, we have several trinity churches--you may have one in Warrensburg.
But there is nothing like it in the Bible. Did Jesus say He was His own Father? Did He say that He was His own Son? How could He be His own Father and His own Son, both at the same time, and in the same person? It is absurd. It is strange that we did not use any of our brain power in the past. We did not study our Bibles at all. There was some excuse for some people in the past who had to work fourteen to eigtheen hours a day for their bread, but there is no excuse now. In the past they had no Bibles, except those written upon parchment which cost a fortune; now you can get a good, complete Bible for twenty-three cents. There was an excuse in the days of Abraham Lincoln, for then a person could not read by Mr. Rockefeller's oil, nor by gas light or electricity, but only by tallow candles and pine knots. There was some excuse then, but none now. So, when we come to see what the Bible says, it tells us not a word about three Gods being one God nor one God being three. It does tell us there is one God and one Lord Jesus. It also tells us that there is one Holy Spirit, the spirit of the Father and of the Son and of all who are in harmony with the Lord. It is called by different names: "The spirit of God," "the spirit of Christ," "the spirit of holiness," "the spirit of truth," "the spirit of a sound mind," "the spirit of liberty," "the spirit of the Father," "the holy spirit of promise," "the spirit of meekness," "the spirit of understanding," "the spirit of wisdom," "the spirit of glory," "the spirit of counsel," "the spirit of faith," "the spirit of adoption," "the spirit of prophecy."
These various titles repeated many times, and used interchangeably, give us the full, proper assurance that they all relate to the same holy spirit--indeed, frequently the word "holy" is added in, combined, as, for instance, "the holy spirit of God," "the holy spirit of promise," etc. We must seek an understanding of the subject which will reject none of these appellations, but harmonize them all. It is impossible to harmonize these various statements with the ordinary idea of God; but it is entirely consistent with every one of them to understand these various expressions as descriptive of the spirit, the disposition and power of one God, our Father; and also the spirit, disposition and power of our Lord Jesus Christ, because He is at one with the Father; and also to a certain extent it is the spirit or disposition of all who are truly the Lord's, angels or men, in proportion as they have come into oneness, or harmony, with Him. All these names are proper names and we are exhorted to be filled with the spirit--not filled with a certain person, which is a mistaken idea.
Now, what does the Bible state about our Lord Jesus Christ? What was He before He came into the world? Unless Warrensburg and Pertle Springs are different from the majority of cities in this country and Europe, in all probability at least one-third of the ministers do not believe that Jesus had any pre-existence at all. I said one-third, but I really believe that two-thirds do not believe that Jesus had any pre-existence. They believe that He began when He was born, the babe at Bethlehem, and the majority tell us that they believe He was born a sinner, the same as others. I do not say that is true here in Warrensburg, but two-thirds of our ministers are higher critics, and do not believe in Jesus, and do not believe that He ever was divine. Yet in this day, when two-thirds do not believe that Jesus was divine, I am pointed out as a heretic and these two-thirds who do not believe in God's Word are the gentlemen of the hour.
Let me quote from the first chapter of John's Gospel. I will give the exact translation; it should read this way: "In the beginning was the Logos." Let me explain that this is the picture God gives here through John. In the beginning was the Logos, the name of Jesus, before He became flesh. We do not know how far back--He was the beginning of God's creation.
Do you mean to say that God created Him?
Yes, I am only quoting the Bible; it says He was the beginning of the creation of God, the first-born, He is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last. God made just one being and never made any more, because all subsequent creations were operated through Divine power, working through Jesus in His pre-human condition as the Logos. "The Logos was with the God and the Logos was a god." Mark the difference between, a god and the God. A god means a mighty one--any person. The God means the mighty one--Jehovah. The mighty one would be higher than a mighty one.
All through the Old Testament the meaning of the Hebrew word Elohim is the "Almighty One." Logos means mighty, not almighty. The angels are mighty ones, because they have a great power. On one occasion the seventy elders of Moses are spoken of as Elohims--mighty ones, to be the special ones in the nation of Israel, but anything these mighty ones could not judge, they were to bring to Moses.
Now coming back to John's statement, "The Logos was with the God, and the Logos was a god, and the Logos was in the beginning with the God. All things were made by Him and without Him was not anything made that was made."
There you have the story from the Bible standpoint; it tells us that the Lord Jesus did not begin His existence as the babe of Bethlehem, and evidently He knew that all the world and all things that were made were made by Him, and that He Himself was the beginning of Jehovah's creation, and that Jehovah acted through Him that in all things He might have the pre-eminence over all other things in the whole Universe. That is the Bible statement, my dear friends. We stand by the Bible and it is right. No other proposition is reasonable.
Ask Jesus whether He was the Father or not. Jesus said, "I and My Father are one."
Brother Russell, I thought you said they were not? No, my brother, you and I are one. Read that prayer of our Lord's in the 17th chapter of John: "I pray for these that they may all be one even as you and I are one." We are to be one in the same sense. Are we one in person? No. Neither is the Father and the Son. You see the point, my dear friends. It is very clear when you take the Bible for it.
Ask Jesus again: "I came to not to do My own will, but the will of the Father which sent Me." Again, "Of Mine own self I can do nothing." There was no disloyalty on the part of Jesus--He never said He was the Father. When He came to His dying hour He cried, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me." Was He telling a falsehood, was He the Father Himself, and merely pretending that He was dying? That is the theory of the trinitarian when it is boiled down--that He was the Father and could not die, because the world could not do without a God for three days, therefore, when Jesus died on the cross it was merely a pretense--He slipped out of the body and said, Let the people think I am dying. They say that He could not die, but merely that He let that old body die--that is the theory. But what does the Bible say? Does it say that the body was to die for our sins? No, the Bible says that His soul was to die, for it is our soul that was to die for sin, and in order to be our Redeemer His soul must die. So we read, "He poured out His soul, He made His soul an offering for sin." We will see the fruitage of it by and by. But His soul did travail, and it did die. And it was His soul that was raised up from the dead. Mark you what Saint Peter said. Go to the Bible, dear friends, don't go to the creeds. Saint Peter says in the second chapter of Acts, when telling the people about the resurrection of Jesus, "This is that which was spoken of by Prophet David saying, thou wilt not leave my soul in hell--'hades.'" Saint Peter then went on to say that David was a prophet, and that so far as David was concerned his soul did stay there, and his sepulchre is with us until this day, but he being a prophet spoke of Christ's soul, that it was not left in hades, that God raised Him from the dead. So you see it was the soul of Jesus that died, and which God raised from the dead. Take the Bible, and we will not get mixed up.
So, then, we do agree that Jesus was not Divine before He came into the world, for if He had been he could not have died because of the peculiar character of the Divine nature, which cannot die, for it is immortal. If Jesus had been Divine He could not have died. Thank God, for He must die for our sins; that was the price.
How was He raised from the dead? The Bible tells us that God raised Him from the dead by His own power--but not to be a human being again. He was raised to be a spirit being, higher than He was before. God made man a little lower than the angels, which means that angels are higher than men, and if Jesus was raised from the dead a man He was raised a little lower than the angels, and that would not be a suitable reward. That is what our friends believe, however; that is what our Methodists friends believe, that He has that very body in Heaven. Our Methodist friends have it most particularly stated there; they say, "Christ did surely rise again from the dead, and took again His body, with all things appertaining to the perfections of man's nature, wherewith He ascended into Heaven, and there sitteth until He returns to judge all men at the last day." (Article 3 of the Methodist Articles of Religion) That is very funny; it sounds as though the body was a sort of luggage, or trunk, and that all things appertaining thereto were the straps, etc. Taking His body with Him! Here was one thing, and He was another thing. I think if our Methodist friends try that over again they can improve on it.
The thought of the Bible is that God allowed His Son to become a man for the very purpose of redeeming man. Why so? Because the Divine law says, "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, and a life for a life," therefore, the blood of bullocks and goats could not take away sin, because bulls and goats had not sinned, but a man had sinned, therefore a man must die. Likewise an angel could not die for men, for an angel had not sinned, but it must be a life for a life--a human life for the human life that had been sentenced to death because of sin. That is the meaning of the word ransom; it means a corresponding price. It must be the same price to release Adam as the penalty was against him. But in order to give the human life for mankind it was necessary for Him to have a human life; therefore, the Divine arrangement was that He might be changed from the spirit nature to the human.
He did not get into a human body and masquerade around. No, "He who was rich for our sakes became poor." He did not deceive the people by getting into a body. The Bible says, "He was made flesh and dwelt among men."
Now, then, Jesus the man was there for the very purpose of rescuing the world, and the Bible says, "A body hast thou prepared for me," for the very purpose of suffering death. And when He had died, He had made the use of that body which God intended, and had no further use for that human nature, as God had promised that He would highly exalt Him. Would not that be reasonable? Do you suppose if Jesus was higher than the angels in the heavenly Father's estimation and love, and it pleased the heavenly Father for Him to leave the heavenly glory on a spiritual plane and become poor, in order to carry out the Father's will, that the Father would condemn Him to stay in that condition through all eternity? Indeed not. The Bible tells us that nothing of that kind occurred. It tells us that Jesus took the human nature and when God raised Him from the dead God raised Him a spiritual being. He was put to death in the flesh, and quickened, or made alive, in the spirit. Was He a more glorious spiritual being? He tells us how He left the glory of the heavenly nature, humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross; wherefore (because, on this account) God hath highly exalted Him and given Him a name that is above every name. This is what Saint Paul said, God gave Him this glorious nature in His resurrection. He was not made merely equal to the angels, but far above angels, principalities and powers and every name that is named. Now the Bible says that He has the Divine nature. Glory, honor, immortality and the Divine nature are His portion now.
Second, so-called false doctrine of Millennial Dawn.
"When He was in the world He was not divine."
No, my dear friends, when in the world he was a human being. The Bible is reasonable, whether Brother Moorehead is or not.
Third, so-called false doctrine of Millennial Dawn.
"His atonement was exclusively human--a mere man's."
Yes, it was, because an angel could not die for a man, nor a bullock be worthy for man, but only a man. None could be a Saviour unless He was a man, a perfect man, as we read in 1 Timothy 2:5-6, "There is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus who gave Himself a ransom for all." That is the way Saint Paul states it, "the man Christ Jesus." But now when Professor Moorehead puts it "mere man," he is intending to try to cause a misrepresentation. What does it mean to your mind? The thought is, "just like other men." That is not true, and if Professor Moorehead read the books, he knows that it is not true that we claim Jesus was a mere man, imperfect. We show from the Bible, "For such an High Priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the Heavens" (Hebrews 7:26). He was not an imperfect Saviour, but the man anointed of God, the man Christ Jesus, the perfect one.
Fourth, so-called false doctrine of Millennial Dawn.
"Since His resurrection He is divine only,--no longer human at all."
Certainly He is divine only. How could He be both human and divine? People write and talk as though they did not have any thinking apparatus at all. He must be either one thing or another. You cannot be a cat and a dog both. You could not be a river and an ocean at the same time, neither a man and a being of the divine nature at the same time.
So the Bible tells us that He was the Logos, with the Father. He was made flesh (not only into flesh) and He dwelt amongst us and we beheld His glory, as the glory of the only begotten of the Father. That the Logos then as a human being gave himself sacrificially, and the Logos was raised to the divine nature, glory, honor, immortality, in His resurrection, and so He will ever be at the right hand of the Father. He could not be the Father, but He is at the right hand of the Father. You see the difference. He will always be at the right hand and will judge men--the place of government, next to the Father.
Fifth, so-called false doctrine of Millennial Dawn.
"His body was not raised from the dead."
No, we answer, there is a great mistake in nearly all of our creeds. You will read in the so-called Apostle's creed, which was not written by the Apostle, which all scholars know, but the laity do not. It declares, "I believe in the resurrection of the body." There is nothing about the resurrection of the body in the Bible; it says the body shall return to dust as it was, and that God will give it--the soul--a body, to each kind its own kind of a body--those in the human family a human body, but those of the Church will get a spiritual body; they will have a change of nature, for they must all be begotten of the spirit and will be spirit beings, and have spirit bodies, like unto Christ's glorious body. We quote Peter's statement, that God raised His soul from sheol, not His body, but raised His soul on a higher plane, on the divine plane, instead of on the human plane. The same personality which was the Logos, and became flesh, and was a human soul, is now resurrected and glorified, and is a divine soul. The word soul is also used in the Bible in connection with the heavenly Father.
Sixth, seventh and eight, so-called false doctrines of Millennial Dawn.
"His second advent took place in 1874."
"Saints were raised up in 1878."
"Christ and the saints are now on earth, and have been for thirty-four and thirty-eight years respectively."
There are some things of this kind, my dear friends, that would take more time to explain than is at our disposal, and in the time allotted to me I will not be able to give a satisfactory reply as I would like to give.
To our understanding, however, the second coming of Christ will have two stages, and in the Scriptures these stages are called the "parousia" and the "epiphania." Now the difference between these two words is not always apparent in the common English version, because both are rendered by the word "coming," but all scholars should know that in the Greek there is this distinction between these two words. The word epiphania signifies the shining forth, the manifestation, and when used it refers to the way Christ shall be manifested at his second advent. "He shall be revealed in flaming fire." That will be a revealing in flaming fire, not literal, but symbolic, but fire which will manifest His advent in a time of trouble, such a time of trouble as never was before. This flaming fire of trouble in the day of the Lord will be the outward sign by which the world will know that Messiah has accepted His throne, that He has taken His power, and that His Kingdom is about to be set up, and then, "Justice will be laid to the line, and righteousness to the plummet." All errors will be swept away and every imperfect thing that can be shaken will be shaken, and only the unshakable things will remain, as Saint Paul says in the 12th chapter of Hebrews.
That epiphania, dear friends, has not yet taken place. But, do we not see the labor trouble, do we not see the army trouble, etc.? Do we not see all the strikes, etc., in Germany, in Great Britain, here and elsewhere? Everything is published abroad and nearly everybody who knows anything about society today knows that the world is sitting close to the crater of a great volcano. We all know it whether we are Methodists, Presbyterians, or nobody.
Now, that time of trouble we believe will be in connection with the epiphania, at the time of the judgment of the world, or nations, or systems. There is more or less injustice and iniquity in all our arrangements of society, political, financial or ecclesiastical, and more or less that is right, and more or less that is wrong. When that time of trouble comes, the people will recognize it, and then the Scriptures say they will be calling upon the rocks and mountains to fall upon them. That is not the real thought--not to crush them, as if a mountain fell upon them, they would not know much about it, but the thought is, cover us, protect us, because of this great day of wrath. These rocks of society are the Free Mason rocks, the Odd Fellow rocks, this insurance society and that insurance society, and the people want to get into these rocks to protect them in this time of trouble, and they want to be identified with the strong governments, such as the United States, for they want to be protected. If they go to Europe, they want to say they have their passports from United States or from Great Britain, etc. So they will say, those great mountains will be my protection. That is the way these things are used in the Bible. Here rocks represent stone fortress. When the trouble breaks out they will begin to go into these things so they may be sheltered and protected, but the Scriptures say they will not be able, for it will be a time of trouble that nothing will be able to deliver from.
At the conclusion of that trouble they will be conquered, not by men fighting it out, but the Lord says that it will be for the elect's sake. For the elect's sake it shall be cut short. That means that Christ's Kingdom, taking its power, will put an end to this trouble. That is what you and I have been praying for, "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, even as it is done in Heaven." It will take the whole thousand years of Christ's reign to have the will of God done on earth as it is done in Heaven. It will be a gradual work. There will be some blotted out in the second death before the world will be in that glorious condition where every creature in Heaven will be singing praise, glory, honor, dominion and might to Him that sitteth upon the throne.
But now about this word parousia: It signifies "presence" that is not manifest, not seen. Well, will Christ be present in such a manner unseen, unknown? Yes, my dear brother, the Bible tells us very plainly that He will be present but not visible to any one, and not exercising any power that the world can see, but He will be present and doing a work in his Church, amongst his people.
In that sense He has been present for the last thirty-seven years. This statement as to the period of time is correct enough, but it is put in a form calculated to deceive people, because of the bluntness in the way it is stated. Do you remember what Jesus said He would do when He would come again? I will remind you. One of the things is that He will receive us, His faithful people, whether in the Presbyterian church, the Methodist, Episcopal, or Roman Catholic, or outside all these churches--whoever they are-- He will gather all the elect, the saints, to Himself.
Then, another thing will be that He will take His great power and rule the world with a rod of iron. That will be at his second coming. Before that takes place He does something else. To illustrate this our Lord gave several parables. In one of these parables, of the wheat and the tares, He taught that He was sowing the good seed and that later when men--the Apostles slept, Satan came in and sowed the seeds of error--tares. The result of sowing the tare doctrines was a mixture of children of God and of the devil--those who believed the message of God and were begotten of the Holy Spirit and others who were deceived. He said, let both grow together until the end of the world. That word "world" does not mean the earth, but in the Greek it means "age," the end of the age, for this earth is never to pass away. "God formed it not in vain, but He formed it to be inhabited." The whole earth, my dear friends, is eventually to be made like Paradise from pole to pole, from shore to shore, and the whole world will be God's footstool, and, "He will make the place of His feet glorious." He has not done this yet, but Messiah's Kingdom will do it. For a thousand years Christ and His Church will reign for the blessing of mankind and the purifying of the earth, until it comes to a Paradisiac condition. In this parable it is taught that this age will end, and a new age will begin; the two will lap the one upon the other. What will help them in the end of this age? He said He would be the great chief reaper in the end of this age, as in the Jewish age. What did He do then? He sent out His disciples to gather in all the wheat of the Jewish nation. He sent them forth to reap that upon which they bestowed no labor. They reaped all the ripe grain of the Jewish nation in that harvest. So Jesus said there would be a harvest time in the end of the Gospel age, and that He would again be present here and do a work of reaping; and He said that then the tares would be bound into bundles for the burning but that He would gather the wheat into His garner. It would all be done in the harvest time, and He will be present in that time.
Take another parable. He gave this parable because many thought He was about to set up His Kingdom. He said, "A certain young nobleman went into a far country to receive a Kingdom and return." He here illustrates that while He was to be the King of the world, He will not take the Kingdom at his first advent, but go first into a far country, Heaven, there to be invested with authority, and then, in due time come again. He said when this young nobleman returns, he will call His servants (not the world), to whom He gave talents, in one parable the pound, and in another parable the talent, saying, trade with these things, make as much out of them as you can. At his return He does not deal with the people in general, but calls His own servants, the Church, and reckons with them, before He does anything with the world at all. This is done in the harvest time, during the parousia, before the open manifestation of the establishment of His Kingdom. This has been going on for thirty-seven years, since 1874.
You mark that there has been something of a reckoning with the nominal church. They know something is the matter, but they do not know what is the matter. They know a change has come over the church; they are aware of it, my dear friends, His reckoning is taking place with each one of us. What kind of an answer will we give when He asks for a reckoning of our account? If some of us should say, Lord, we hid your talent in the earth and we have been so busy with our house and morals, etc., we really forgot that we were servants, but were serving ourselves, our people, our denominations, and forgot that we had a talent to serve you, He will say to such, "Depart thou wicked and slothful servant." He did not say, Go to hell and be roasted. No, but that such would receive certain chastisements and punishments. Then He called the other servants. Some answered, "Lord, thou deliverest unto me two talents; behold I have brought two other talents beside them." "His Lord said unto him, well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." So it was also with those who had received the five talents. He said, You have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. You showed your earnestness and zeal and love and loyalty, therefore, my dear servant, enter into the joys of your Lord. You have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things--over the whole world. In the Kingdom his faithful servants are to share with the Master, to sit on his throne with Him. In another connection we read that He will give such rule over two cities and five cities, according to their faithfulness, zeal, love and activity in His service.
Oh, dear friends, this is the reckoning that we believe is going on now. Whatever we see in the Word of God we are deeply interested in. We are not saying anything fishy, not dealing with any spooks, but walking by faith. Whether the Lord is present or not, whether we are living in the parousia or not, I tell you, dear friends, it is a very interesting matter to view it as we view it, because it will help us to realize that He is dealing with us, looking at how we are using the talents given to us.
Ninth, so-called false doctrine of Millennial Dawn.
"The professing Christian church was rejected of God in 1878."
My dear friends, there is a statement in the Scriptures that at a certain time this will be true. Whether true now or not, the time is coming when the voice of the Bridegroom and of the Bride shall be heard no more in her, in Babylon. That time will come, whether now or at a future time, and we believe that those who are in harmony with God will not be in Babylon any longer. As their eyes open, we believe they will see that they are misrepresenting God while they are there, and if they do realize this they will know that the only terms on which they can remain will be that they should not tell God's word. If I were trying to get into any of these churches that these brethren have charge of, they would try to put me out. Well, I am not trying to get into them, because I would feel that I was stultifying myself, for their creeds are not such that any man or woman could confess-- we cannot believe them today. Perhaps our grandfathers could believe them, but today we cannot. If you stay there as a Methodist, you are saying, I believe in and stand for those God-dishonoring doctrines of that creed. So with any others of the churches, according to their creeds. Do you wonder why I do not try to speak under their auspices! I would rather they would come here and study together what God's word teaches and not what the creeds teach. Let us get free from the bondage of any traditions, bondage of human errors.
"Tenth, so-called false doctrine of Millennial Dawn."
"The final consummation and end will take place in 1914."
We are expecting in October, 1914, that a great change will be due. Now, how quickly will it come? Whether on the stroke of the clock or not we do not know. We believe that it will land upon humanity by that time. Perhaps some of it will come before that, but we believe it will be stayed off until that time. Now, dear friends, what if it does not? We are just as well off as the rest. That is what the Bible states. If it does not state that to you, we have no quarrel. And if it does not come we will not try to bring it about. But, on the contrary, we will try to practice peace and holiness withal. We are children of peace and peacemakers, not strife breeders. But we believe the Bible teaches October, 1914, as the time. If that is incorrect for a year, or five, or one hundred years, no matter, it is coming some time, whether we have it right or not.
"Eleventh, so-called false doctrine of Millennial Dawn."
"Silence as to the person and work of the Holy Spirit."
Not at all; if the brother will read he will find three or four chapters in the fifth volume of the Millennial Dawns or Studies in the Scriptures devoted to the Holy Spirit and all the texts of Scriptures bearing on it.
Twelfth, so-called false doctrine of Millennial Dawn.
"Teaches that Christ did not mean what he said regarding the destiny of the wicked."
This brother says I do not believe and teach what Christ said. What does the Bible say? Well, the Bible says, "All the wicked will God destroy." Do I believe it? Yes. Does Brother Moorehead believe it? No. He believes that all the wicked will God preserve in fire, with devils having tails, pitch forks, etc. The way the preachers go on to tell about it is laughable. One of them went on to tell about it as though he had been in hell and knew all about it. He went on to say that after a person had been in hell for some time the old skin becomes asbestofied, so to speak. After awhile the skin cracks open, he says, and the flames go right in; it is awful. Well, I should think it would be. When asked how any man could stand it for centuries after centuries, they say, God will inject or infuse life, so that He will keep them alive, so as to perpetuate an awful eternity of horror, and all except the saintly few will be roasted in that way. Think of it! Did we not have our heads pretty well muddled when we preached the same things? I believe God will forgive me for attributing such awful doctrines to Him.
I remind you of what that great doctor of theology, Jonathan Edwards said. In answer to a question as to whether we would not feel bad if we got into Heaven and knew that our loved ones were in eternal torment, he said, No, you will look over the battlements of Heaven and perhaps see your parents or children writhing in the lake of fire and suffering untold agonies and then turn around and clap your hands and praise God for His justice.
Poor Jonathan did not have a very good idea of justice. I would not like to have him try a case in court for me. My dear friends, it is ridiculous. What did Jesus say? Jesus said, "He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son shall not see life." This means that He will not let them have life; they will not suffer in misery. So the Apostle says, This is the promise that He has promised us, that we might have life and this life is in his Son, and when He shall appear we shall appear also with him in glory, in the first resurrection. But those who will not come into harmony with God, shall not have eternal life; and I thank God for the wisdom and justice of His plan.
I presume Brother Moorehead had special thought with respect to the 25th chapter of Matthew, because there we read, in the 41st verse, "Depart from me, ye (speaking of the goats) cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." What is meant by the everlasting fire? This everlasting fire is just as symbolical as the goats. Fire is a symbol of destruction, not preservation. Do you put anything into the fire to preserve it? Why not? Because it would burn up. So this is the picture God gives, "All the wicked will God destroy." In another place fire came down from Heaven and destroyed them all. It did not preserve any of them. So in this chapter Jesus pictures the two classes, and you cannot burn symbolical goats with literal fire. The goats is symbolical and so is the fire. The goats represent a wayward class, and the fire represents their destruction.
Saint Paul said, "They shall be punished with everlasting destruction." Did he say anything about their being punished with fire? No.
Peter says, "They shall perish like the natural brute beast." Do they roast them or torture them? No. Does he state that God will? No--all the wicked will God destroy.
So again in the 25th chapter of Matthew one receives life everlasting, and the other everlasting punishment--not torment. What is the punishment for sin? What does the Bible say? Let me quote from the Bible--never mind the creeds--remember the Bible: "The soul that sinneth it shall die"--not that it shall live forever in torment. That is the punishment for sin. It is just the same as the greatest punishment in our laws. No civilized nation would think of torturing any criminals. So God said that the extreme of all punishment will be that he will destroy the beings entirely. So He says, "These shall go away into everlasting punishment" --which is destruction, the punishment of death.
But then, there is another answer: the word punishment here used, in the Greek is "kolasin," and it means, pruning or cutting off; and he shall go away into everlasting cutting off from life, from the Lord, and all hope of life. Before being cut off, however, they will be given every opportunity. That parable does not belong here in this age, but this one, the one about the sheep and the goats, belongs to the next age, during the thousand years of Messiah's reign, when the whole world of mankind will be before the great Millennial throne of the great judgment day, and all the sheep will be at the right hand of favor, and the goats at the left hand of disfavor for the thousand years, and at the close the sheep will be received into favor with God, but the goat class will be cut off in the second death. The first death was the penalty for sin; Love sent Christ to redeem the world from the first penalty, but Christ will not die for those who go into the second death, and there will be no hope or redemption for them.
NOW, my dear friends, we have come to the conclusion of this convention. I have not been privileged to be with you at every session but my heart has been with you from time to time, and all the reports I have received are to the effect that you have been having a good spiritual feast--just what you came here to enjoy and to help to give to others. And, indeed, I have heard some of the friends make the remark, This is our best convention, but I tell them that is so in every convention, and I think the explanation must be this: That by the Lord's grace we are growing in grace and knowledge, and in His love, and, therefore, each time we come together it seems more precious, simply because our own hearts are in better condition to receive the blessing. You might be here and your heart somewhere else, and you would get no blessings at all. You might be in an evil condition of heart and be vexed and hurt by everything. I am very glad, indeed, to hear, so far as any friends could go and report, that they had not heard anything except the Lord's name was praised, and that all His people seemed to be greatly blessed in this privilege of fellowshipping together.
I cannot tell, dear friends, brethren and sisters, how long it will be before we will meet again. As you know, I am expecting to meet with some other dear friends in about a month in Toronto; we expect to have another convention as large as this one, and then we expect to have another in Washington, D.C., and directly following that I take the steamer for Europe, and after several stops in Great Britain, the last Sunday of July I will be in Glasgow, where we are to have a large convention, and then after visiting a few other towns, the following Sunday I will be in London, where we are to have another convention. I wish I could take you all along and have the benefit of them all. It is not selfish on my part, but I was telling some of the friends about the matter, how that they could go to all the conventions, and so cheap. I was saying that we do nearly everything in our minds anyway. As for instance, I was introduced to a dear sister who had come quite a distance to this convention, and I understand she is Polish and unable to understand a word that we said, but she wanted to participate in the spirit of the convention; and as she looked into the faces at the convention she was getting a blessing. Now, if she shuts her eyes she can imagine she is with us in Toronto, later in Washington, later in Glasgow, and later in London, what she can do the rest of us can do. Is not that so?
I think of another sister who for some reason went away every summer to visit one of her daugthers for awhile, and as she came back from such a visit of several months, she said, Brother Russell, I am back again; I have had a good time, been to meetings all the time I was away. I asked her what she meant? She said, Every Sunday as regular as the time came, I got a hymn book and sang my hymn. Next, she said, they are having prayer, so I had prayer. Next she thought, now they usually sing another hymn, so I sang another hymn. Then, she thought, they have a sermon, I cannot be there to hear, so I had a sermon to read, then I prayed in the usual form, and Brother Russell, I have been having a grand time--yes, had a spiritual fellowship with everybody, all in my mind.
Now, was not that a pretty good idea? It is so cheap, you do not have to fix up, no fixing of dresses, etc., no suit case to pack, no board bills and railroad fare, nothing of the kind, and no dusty travel. You can get all of that benefit just in your mind. I fancy most people have never learned what a great privilege a brain is. If your mind and heart are rightly in tune with God you can have a good time with God anywhere. At one time it was difficult for us to understand how we could have fellowship with our heavenly Father; we used to wonder how God would hear so far, and if He could hear if we would whisper. Now we have something that helps us, dear friends. Some of the inventions of our day, such as the telephone and the telegraph and the wireless telegraph teach us wonderful lessons. If man can have wireless communication with other men hundreds of miles away we can now see how the great God can have communication with His children. Our minds can the better grasp the facts. As we get this illustration, it helps our faith. Why, it seems almost as though we were walking by sight and not by faith. Particularly when we see the fulfillment of the Scriptures going on right around us every day, and more and more wonderful things coming, just as God said they would come, and just as we have been seeing in His word before they came. We knew about their coming, and when they do come, they become confirmations of our faith and trust in God.
I say, dear brothers and sisters, "What manner of persons ought we to be?" We should certainly not think of comparing ourselves with other people in the sense of comparing ourselves with worldly people, because we have so many advantages over other people. How little they really appreciate life. They hardly know why they are in the world. Just ask somebody why he is here, why God created him, and what God intends with respect to him? The chances are that he will be thoroughly surprised, never having thought of the matter as to what he is doing here or what his hopes are. That person does about the best he can if he fills his life with business or pleasure. He cannot keep his head empty without being an idiot. But I tell you, my dear brothers and sisters, this more and more impresses itself upon me. What manner of person ought we to be--ought we to compare ourselves with others and say that we are better than they? Oh, that would be a poor plan, but some of us who have been Christians for years are not to compare ourselves with others who have been Christians for a day, week or year or month.
I remember a friend coming to me one day saying, "Brother Russell, I have such difficulties along certain lines." Well, I tried to give him good advice. Oh, yes, I see that and know how it ought to be done, but do not seem to be able to do it. I make a failure of it; if I could only do it the way you do it would be all right. I said, my dear friend, if you could do it the way I can do it, it would be a great shame to me, for I was a Christian before you were born, and if I had not learned to do better each day I would certainly be discouraged. Oh yes, he said later, that helped me so much. I found that all God required of me was to do my best. If I had a little experience I gained more experience. He found it to be a great blessing. So we all will find a great blessing by coming into this attitude of appreciating our blessings and making certain allowances if we have certain known tendencies.
The Apostle says, speaking along this line, we should not judge one another; yea, I judge not mine own self, he said. What did he mean? Oh, he meant that he might be too lenient with himself, and again too severe, when, perhaps, he was doing the best he could; so he said, there is one that judgeth me.
So that is our thought. And since we have come to know our heavenly Father is a good, gracious, loving Father, delighting to do good, having sympathy, etc., now we can come to Him as children to a Father. And He says we must come to Him and acknowledge our faults. How precious to remember that He is able to appreciate our condition and sympathize with us, and also provides for us a Great High Priest, and Advocate. So the Apostle says that if we trespass against others or against Him, let us come with boldness to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in every time of need. I think there is a special reason why God has fixed this matter as He has done in respect to our coming to Him in prayer. He might have said, Now they are my children, I will not count these things against them, I will merely reckon that they did not know and were imperfect and weak, and did not do it intentionally, and I will make no record of it. That is not the way God does. But what does He do? Does He charge them up, whether intended or not? Yes. Whether deliberate or not? Yes. Whether we thought or did not think? Yes. He charges them all to us. Then what? He has made provision through Christ that these trespasses that were not intentional, not wilful on our part, can be atoned for us. But why should He do that? What object could be served by doing that? Oh, it brings the matter to your attention and to my attention to know what right is. Knowing that we cannot do the right, the effect is to teach us that we are weak and imperfect and needing God's mercy. That sends us to the throne of heavenly grace, and makes the throne of grace a very precious place, my dear friends--a very blessed place--and it impresses upon us the matter, and if you have come once and have occasion to go the second time for the same weakness or blemish, you feel as though you wanted to say, Lord, this is the second time and I told you before that I would try to be more careful and here is the second time, and I am ashamed, but I felt that I must come, that I did not dare to stay away for I felt that if I did this earth-born cloud would be there and I could not realize the privilege of being a child of yours without forgiveness through the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Do you not see, then, dear friends, that it impresses the matter more than if you say, God knows all about it and did not count it against me. The only way you can blot that out is through the merit of Christ's precious blood. It gives us an appreciation of the merit of Christ's blood and makes it precious before us.
Then, dear brothers and sisters, we will welcome the difficulties and tests which we know must come to every Christian. They may never have them the second time, but we will hope that you will so fortify yourselves and say, there is a weakness in my nature; I see it now and I am going to barricade it by putting every resolution behind it to keep it strong, and it becomes the very strongest part of your character. You did not know it at first, but after you found it out, then you fortified that weak spot. You are making character, and even the mistakes and failures become helps. God's arrangement commends itself to us as being the very essence of wisdom for us.
Further, as you would have to do this time and again, it would have the effect upon your own heart of making you very humble. Oh yes, whatever pride was there, if you were feeling that you were much better than the average of people you would say, Oh, I have found some of my weaknesses and feel very humble before God. Good for you; you need to be humble before God, for if you were any other way than humble before God you could not abide in His love. Humility is a very prominent grace in the sight of God. "Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you in due time." It comes right in as you find your weaknesses--humble yourselves and make it right with God.
Another thing it will do for you: After you have humbled yourselves several times coming to God in prayer because of your weakness-it might be an appetite for liquor, or good things of this life, or a bad temper, or impatience, or criticizing someone else, or tongue of slander--whatever it may be, and you have found yourself out, you will feel real mean and ashamed of yourself. Well, that will help you when somebody says something mean to you; it will be such a help to you. You will say to yourself, I had my little experience, I guess I had better not say anything. The gracious God has forgiven me and I will be gracious to forgive others. It will make you tender-hearted, you will not sympathize with sin because God has no sympathy for sin, but He has a great deal of sympathy for the sinner when weak and the fault is through weakness or disposition received down through all those generations of six thousand years since the fall. We get His spirit as we thus follow the directions of His word.
But then comes in this difficulty: After you have gone to the Lord for some matter and you have had forgiveness and then you transgress again, there will be a disposition come into your mind which will say, you can't go to God with this; don't pray at all tonight. Avoid trying to meet the Lord. What would you say if you did meet Him? How could you pray? There is a dangerous spot, my dear brethren. If you pass that night without prayer, then the next morning and the next night it is easier to pass again without prayer, and say, I don't want to pray, and don't feel like praying. You do not, because you do not feel like coming into the presence of the Lord and telling Him what you need, and there is a tendency of getting further and further away from God, and that has led many people away from God altogether. That is very much the stand of the great company class, as I understand the Bible to describe it (not attempting to judge any individual). The great company class is described in the 7th chapter of Revelation as those who have come up out of great tribulation and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. But how did their robes come to be washed, my dear brethren? Because they were spotted. Why did they not keep them unspotted from the world? Oh, they would say, nobody could do that, there is not a person surely that could go through life and keep themselves unspotted. Oh yes, my dear brother, there is. Brother Russell, do you believe in absolute perfection of the flesh? No, I never found it in the Bible or found anybody perfect in the world (Jesus excepted). How, then, keep unspotted from the world? We mean just this: The tendency is that if you got one spot on, a hasty temper, etc., unkind words which hurt somebody, you knew it was wrong at the time, but you could not help it, as it were, because of the circumstances. As it happened, it just seemed to sweep you along and you said it before you knew it. Then what? You have a spot, and the only thing to do is that you first go to the person whom you hurt or offended and make it right with him. Do your part in the way it is stated.
Oh, you say, that might be too humbling; it might be a colored brother, a child, or someone else, and it would be too humiliating. Never mind, my dear brother, you want to keep your own skirts clean, and you want to do it. If troublesome, it will be all the more helpful to you another time. Good for you, first-rate discipline; God has it in the best form possible. After doing the best you can to right the matter, then come to God with the spot, and you can get it removed. How? By the precious blood that cleanseth us from all sin. Remember that that word cleanseth does not refer to those sins which were washed away when we accepted Christ as our Saviour, but refers to a work going on day by day. Not something accomplished in the past, but going on now. So then, the blood of Christ is the blood that keeps cleansing us. Every day you get some spots, and thus every day you are in danger, and thus every day you need to go continually for that blood that will cleanse the spots away. But now, my dear brother, suppose you did not do that and you said, Now, I can't go to God for I know He will not hear me, as I have this matter unsettled with my brother, neighbor or friend, therefore, I will not pray at all; I will not be a hypocrite, for I know God will not hear me unless I make it right, and I am not ready to make it right. You are in a dangerous condition and it may cost you your crown. At that very minute, that is the most important thing in the world to you. Why? Well, if you do not get over it you will never be an overcomer. That is the importance, my dear brother. I have opportunity for seeing this matter more than some of the rest of you and I see such a one making no progress along spiritual lines and he goes back and gets off into error, and since there is only one way, and that is to have short accounts every day, don't let it run, even a minute, if you can avoid it. Get right with the individual, do your best; if he refuses to accept your apologies, make them ample, so that you can tell God that you have done the very best you can, and then come to Him and have faith that He can forgive the trespass, which is the same as is referred to in the Lord's Prayer. We are not referring here to original sins; God does not forgive an original sin, because only the blood of Christ can cleanse from that. But after that is done, and you are a New Creature in Christ, you still have this mortal flesh, and you still must keep it unspotted, and you still have need of the merit of Christ being imputed to you.
But suppose you should let it stand and get more spots tomorrow, and more the next day, and by and by some one would say, There are so many spots on your robes! Oh yes, everybody has--you know everybody has. And that is too true--too true--and that is why the great company is going to be a great company. They do not keep their garments unspotted from the world. The Little Flock, the Scriptures say, are to be without spot or wrinkle. Who keeps the robes? You do. Without desire on your part for the cleansing of the robe, it will not be cleansed. We must take our steps in order to have this thing right with God, our Master and Head, our Lord. This then, my dear brothers and sisters, would be the thought I would leave with you. We do not know what trials or difficulties will beset us, but His grace is sufficient for us, but only by the way He has arranged it-- only in Christ--that is eternal. Every blessing and every forgiveness of divine favor comes through Him. All things are of the Father and all things by the Son, and we by Him. That is the way we must come.
Then this keeping of our account is making character. When we rectify a wrong, we are doing something that will make us stronger; then it will help us to look around at the other points of our character, where we find we have weaknesses by nature. Fortify these points. This is the will of God, and this is growing in grace and knowledge and love, growing in the spirit of the character-likeness of our Lord. This is exactly what the Apostle wants us to do. God has foreordained that you and I could not be of the Divine Nature class, the Royal Priesthood class, the Bride Class, unless we were copies of His Son. That is what it says in the 8th chapter of Romans --He foreknew all that glorious Church. All these, He says, must be conformed to the likeness of His Son. Is not that plain enough?
My dear brothers and sisters, those are the terms upon which we are to get into the great general convention that is coming by and by--the general assembly of the Church of the First-born, on the other side, beyond the second vail; that is what we are hoping for. And if we get this, whether in the Great Company or the Little Flock, if we get into the heavenly condition, it will be a glorious privilege and it will be because we are overcomers, when we have our robes thoroughly washed of all spots either by daily washing, or finally in the great tribulation, and then prove ourselves overcomers and loyal to God in the end; otherwise we will go into the second death. Let us try day by day to keep our garments unsoiled and we will be with the Saviour and share with Him the glory, honor and immortality that He has promised.
There will be the different positions, you see--the Bridegroom, the Bride, and the virgins, her companions who follow after. Will you be there? Will I be there? I hope so, my dear brothers, my dear sisters. It is for you; I cannot make your calling and election sure, and you cannot make my calling and election sure. You may have an influence upon me, and I may have an influence upon you, by what I say or do, but the matter lays in your hands for yourself and in my hands for myself.
We are not to say we have given ourselves to God and that He will carry it out. No, He only works in us to will and to do His good pleasure, while we wish to do it--it is for us to desire.
You can bar the Lord's providence out of your heart and life, for God recognizes the human will.
Then, my dear brethren and sisters, I beseech you, using St. Paul's words, by the mercies of God (all the good things that He has done for us whom He has called to become joint-heirs) that you present your bodies a living sacrifice. We have already presented them in a sense of consecration. You did a presentation yesterday, and do the same today and every day, and I do mine, but we must keep the matter right up to date, keeping it presented to God, allowing it to be consumed on the fire--allowing it to be a sweet odor to God. I am sure this is your sentiment, as it is mine: May we, by the Grace of God, meet beyond the river, on the heavenly shore, at the great convention of the General Assembly of the Church of the First Born, whose names are written in heaven.
We are not going there merely because we are Bible Students, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans or Roman Catholics, but because we are what we are by the grace of God; because we have accepted God's terms, because we are members of the Church of the First Born, and, therefore, our names are written in Heaven--because we have been faithful to Him.