April 18, 1904


Pastor Russell's evening discourse was also from the chart of the ages, his text being "Strait (difficult) is the gate and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." (Matt. 7:14) He said:

Our Lord's words are most reasonable when rightly understood, but most unreasonable as viewed by the vast majority of those who read them. To the majority, guided by the errors of the creeds of Christendom, the thought is that God-because of original sin, because of Adam's disobedience in Eden-sentenced him and all of his posterity to an eternity of torture, but that God more or less relented and made the provision for the saving of a "little flock," and that in pursuance of this plan He made a way by which the world could come from its broad, downward road of sin and degradation by a "narrow" obscure path, very difficult to travel, back to divine favor and everlasting bliss. The thought is sure to come to every reasoning mind that a great and good Creator would make a way of escape from eternal torment that would not be so very narrow nor so very difficult to find, nor so very difficult to walk in after it was once found. Reverence for God struggles in the minds of many of His dear children in the doubts and fears and rebellious sentiments engendered by these misconceptions of the divine arrangement. The scriptures declare that the liberal soul devises liberal ways. How then shall we see that our God is a liberal God when devising "narrow" ways?

The whole matter is confusing until we recognize two things:

First-That the world is not on its way to eternal torment; that God made no such penalty for sin. That theory was concocted in the "dark Ages" and is of the Adversary and not of God. It is contrary to His Word as well as contrary to His character. We cannot go into the details of this study now, but, realizing its importance to all of the Lord's people, we have prepared a pamphlet which discusses the subject amply, and examines every text having the least shadow of bearing upon it, from Genesis to Revelation. This pamphlet we offer you free; they can be had from the ushers as you leave this room, and if there be not a sufficiency to supply all who desire them drop me a postal card at Allegheny, Pa., and I will be pleased to supply you without charge. The public has been misled respecting this subject of eternal torment, not only by some mistranslations of the original text, which we show, but also by a false interpretation thrown upon the present translation.

This flashlight from the Dark Ages has taught us to attach a different meaning to words when we read them in the Bible from that which properly belongs to them, and which we attach to them when we read them elsewhere. For instance, the false theory has led us, in reading the Scriptures "All the wicked will God destroy," to understand it to mean the very reverse-that all the wicked will God preserve for torture at the hands of devils. When we read in the Scriptures, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die," we have been mistaught that this means the reverse of what it says-that it means that their soul will not die; that the soul of the sinner will be preserved and tortured to all eternity. When we read that "the enemies of the Lord shall perish" and that they shall be "destroyed with an everlasting destruction," we have been mistaught that we should understand the meaning to be the reverse-namely, that they will not perish, that God will hinder them from perishing, and that, instead of being destroyed with an everlasting destruction, they will be preserved with an everlasting preservation that they may be tortured. I leave this subject, dear friends, with you and your Bible and the little helping pamphlet which I offer you without cost, which will, under the blessing of God, guide you to a clearer understanding [HGL207] of His plan and His character, by helping you to rightly divide the Word of Truth and to understand it and get your minds free from the gross darkness of the Dark Ages, which still beclouds in many hearts and minds the beauty of the divine plan and character.

Two-The second thing necessary to be remembered is that which we pointed out this afternoon, namely, that the world in general has not yet enjoyed the privileges and blessings secured for "every man" by the death of Christ-that these blessings and privileges and opportunities for returning to divine favor are to reach the whole world of mankind in due time-in the coming age. On this subject we will have something to say on next Lord's Day when considering the Day of Judgment.

With these two matters out of our way, namely, the thought that men are under sentence of eternal torment, and the equally unscriptural thought that their whole opportunity for return to divine favor is limited to the present age-with these two difficulties out of the way, we are prepared to examine what the Scriptures have to say about the narrow way, and why it is so narrow.

It is sin that makes it narrow, difficult. God's law is perfect and unchangeable. Its provision is that none may have everlasting life except as they shall be obedient to that law in the present time. Because of the fallen condition of the world of mankind "sin abounds," and because of our own share in this fallen condition, any and every attempt to live in harmony with God brings into opposition not only the interests of our friends and neighbors, but also arouses in ourselves opposition of the flesh, opposition of the fallen tendencies of our nature. And when once we set out to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, to walk in harmony with the law of love, it means besetment from the world and besetment from our own flesh; and the Scriptures teach us that still further it means the besetment of the Adversary to the extent that he has power and influence in the affairs of earth. It is no wonder, then, if we find the way to God, the way of obedience to the perfect law of God, love, to be a narrow way, a difficult way. When we come to understand the matter we see readily enough that this way could not be otherwise than it is under present conditions.

But will present conditions always continue? Will it always be so difficult to go in the way that we desire to go-in the way of obedience to the law of God, which we recognize to be just and right and good? No! The Lord assures us that the time is coming when Satan shall be bound-when he shall be restrained of his liberty and power in respect to opposition to the truth and misrepresentation of things that are right and opposition to the Lord and to His people. More than this, we are assured that the blinding influence which he now exerts over the world of mankind will cease, the truth will no longer appear unreasonable and error no longer appear light, because the true light shall shine and all darkness shall be scattered. This will be in the Millennial day, during the reigning of the glorious kingdom of God's dear Son, which shall scatter the night of sin and ignorance and prejudice and superstition, and usher in the knowledge of the Lord, full, clear and blessed.

Under those new conditions, the Scriptures assure us, the "highway of holiness" will be opened and that there will be no difficulties in the way. The stones of misrepresentation and misunderstanding will all be gathered out-it will be a highway comparatively easy to travel. The adversary's agents will no longer be permitted to entrap, ensnare and stumble those who, under the knowledge of that time, desire to walk in the ways of righteousness. The declaration in symbolic language is, "No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast." (Isa. 35:8-9.) We all know that these ravenous beasts of the fallen condition prevail now, seeking to devour at every step, or at least to intimidate us in our endeavors to walk in the "narrow way." We are glad to know of the glorious time coming, when everything shall be so favorable, and when the world of mankind shall have such gracious opportunities for returning to divine favor and regaining all that was lost in Eden, at the hands of Him who "redeemed us with His own precious blood."


But, some one will say, perhaps, "Then there is injustice with God. We of the present time find the way narrow, whereas others of the future will find it pleasant and a delightsome way to walk, in harmony with the Lord, up to the grand perfection of restitution and everlasting life." No, we answer; there is no unrighteousness with God. We of the present time, who see this narrow way, are invited to walk therein in the footsteps of the Master; but we are not compelled to take this course. It is a privilege, not an obligation, to enter at the straight gate. Nevertheless, whoever enters the straight gate of consecration binds himself, obligates himself, to continue in the narrow way even to its end; but there is no compulsion respecting consecration. That is left open to ourselves-the Lord graciously telling us something respecting the privileges and blessings that will accrue to those who walk this narrow way faithfully.

But what advantage could come to this class that would offset the differences between the narrowness of the present way and the blessings and privileges and freedom of the highway in the coming age? Ah, we answer, much advantage every way, so that those who have entered the straight gate and walked for a time in the narrow way and been granted the privilege of seeing the favors and blessings of the Lord attaching to them as followers in the footsteps of Jesus-these would not for a moment think of exchanging the privileges and opportunities of the "narrow way" for the blessings and privileges of the "highway" of the future. Let me explain this matter and illustrate it to you from the chart. Here we see that the narrow way was the way that our Lord Jesus took, the way of self-denial, the way of self-sacrifice, the way of righteousness, and we see the high reward of His course. The apostle expresses the matter in these words, speaking of our Lord Jesus, "Him hath God highly exalted, and given Him a name that is above every name." He has just explained that this favor to our Lord Jesus as a direct result of His obedience to His Father's plan, His obedience unto death, even the death of the cross. Philip. 2:8-11.

During this Gospel age a limited number have been invited to association with the Lord in the sufferings of this present time-the sufferings and trials and difficulties of this narrow way-and to a share also in the glorious life on [HGL208] a higher plane which is its reward at the farther end. Our Lord spoke of this to some in His day, saying that none could be His disciples unless they would take up their cross to follow Him, and He urged that none do this except after they had first sat down and counted the cost. He assured us that the cost of discipleship would be the cost of everything of an earthly kind-the cost of every earthly interest and ambition would signify the full surrender of our hearts, of our wills, in every matter to do the Father's will, but that the reward would be exceeding great, beyond all that we could have asked or thought.

My dear friends, I trust that a considerable number of those whom I address this evening are the Lord's consecrated people, who have taken up their crosses that they may be followers of the Lord Jesus, that they may walk in this "narrow way," and that they may gain in the end the life eternal with the Lord, the glory, honor and immortality of the divine nature, which the Lord promises not only to our Lord Jesus, but to all those who should thus be identified with Him who in the Scriptures are described figuratively as members of His body and again as His bride and joint heirs. I trust that, seeing distinctly what this narrow way is and to what it leads, may make us all the more earnest in our walk therein-that we may walk faithfully, perseveringly, counting not our lives dear unto us that we might win Christ and share with the Anointed One in the glorious company of the future, which is to be the kingdom of God and which is to bring blessing and uplift to the world of mankind. Those who thus see the glorious outcome of the narrow way will not begrudge the world the blessings and opportunities of the highway of holiness which will be opened up immediately that the kingdom is established and Satan is bound. Nay, we rejoice in the narrow way and in the privilege of walking therein, and we may continually give thanks to God for this great privilege of walking therein, and we may continually give thanks to God for this great privilege of suffering with Christ that we may also reign with Him-dying with Him that we may also live with Him and be joint heirs with Him in the kingdom.

The Lord willing, dear friends, we will next Lord's day, in the afternoon, consider the significations of the Day of Judgment and the great blessings that it means for the world of mankind, and in the evening our topic, "The Grand Consummation of the Divine Plan," will close this series of Chart Talks. Our hope, our endeavor, is that as we get clearer views of the divine purposes and arrangements, set forth in God's Word, we may be drawn nearer to our Redeemer in word and conduct-that thus His prayer for us shall be fulfilled, "Sanctify them through Thy truth; Thy word is truth."

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