Pittsburgh Gazette'September 12, 1904


New Albany, Ind. -Pastor C T Russell of Allegheny, Pa., addressed a large audience here today at 3 p. m. on "God's Oath-Bound Covenant to Abraham and His Seed." His evening discourse is herewith reported in full. He goes from here to St. Louis, but is to be in Allegheny next Sunday. He said:

I choose for my text the words of the apostle: "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." Heb. 10:31

There are two things about this text that are sure to strike the reflective mind as very peculiar until the reasoner has made some progress in the study of the plan of the ages. First of all he will say to himself, "Ah, how strange! If God is the good, loving being which the scriptures everywhere represent Him to be, why should it be a fearful thing to fall into His hands? Should we not prefer to fall into the hands of the Lord rather than into the hands of man or into other hands?" The second question arising in such a mind is "How could we fall into God's hands? Are we not His creatures? And as such are we not already in His hands? And is it not impossible for us to take ourselves out of His hands? And if these things be so, where is the consistency of this inspired declaration of the apostle 'It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.'" Such arguments are sound they cannot be contradicted. But the facts can be explained in full accord with them.

Taking the last question first: We agree that the world of mankind is in the hands of God, that Adam was his creature and that all of Adam's descendants likewise were in the hands of the Creator. Because of disobedience the Creator sentenced them all to death, and they are still in His hands as convicts, going day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, to execution- "The wages of sin is death." It is true, then, that the world cannot fall into the hands of the living God, but it is also true that the apostle is not writing to the world nor about the world, but respecting the church. The Church of Christ has, in the scriptures, a plane or standing in the divine plan, separate and distinct from that of the world. The Lord's words on this subject are, "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but ye are not of the world, for I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." John 15:18-19.

But does not the apostle say that "of one blood God created all the families of the earth?" And if so, how can the church, gathered out of every nation, people, kindred and tongue, have a different standing before God from that of the remainder of the world? The apostle does so state and we agree, quoting again from his words, "We are children of wrath even as others." But consecrated believers, "the church of the living God whose names are written in heaven," are no longer children of wrath, no longer part of the world; they have been officially translated or taken over from the family of Adam to the family of God. In the language of the scriptures they have been begotten again to new hopes, new aims, new objects, new ambitions, a new relationship to God. It is this class and not the world that the apostle is addressing in our text. To these "New Creatures in Christ Jesus," to whom "old things are passed away and all things have become new" to these it would be a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. 2 Cor. 5:17.


This expression, "New Creatures in Christ Jesus," is full of meaning. It signifies that this class, the church, "whose names are written in heaven," have no individual standing before God, separate and apart from the world; their standing, their justification, their peace with God, their acceptance as children of God, is based upon their union with Christ. As the apostle declares, we are "accepted in the beloved," not personally. The scriptures set forth the Lord Jesus to be the great Mediator through whom those who believe on Him, trust Him, obey Him according to their ability, are reckoned as having passed from death unto life, from imperfection to perfection although this great change has not yet taken place in them, but is merely hoped for on the basis of the divine promise to be fulfilled in the resurrection morning.

Many in perplexity ask: Why is there need of a mediator if God is love and has sympathy toward his creatures? Why not deal with them directly, forgiving their sins and accepting them to himself as an earthly parent would do? Surely an earthly parent would not require his returning prodigal son to come through a mediator and refuse to accept him otherwise. Why, then, should God so deal with us? We answer that in our dealings with our fellows and with our children we are to remember that both are imperfect. Hence it would not be right for us to attempt to deal with one another on the basis of absolute justice, absolute righteousness. Our dealings must be on the basis of mercy and compassion, even as we hope to obtain mercy of the Lord as it is written, He shall obtain no mercy who shows no mercy. No other course would be reasonable for us. But with God matters are totally different. In the first place His dealing with our race took place over 6,000 years ago when it, as represented in the first pair, was perfect in the mental and moral image of the Creator. In our first parents the race was tested respecting its obedience and loyalty to the Creator. Disobedience brought its penalty sin, degradation and death, mental, moral and physical blemishes, resulting in destruction. That was a fearful experience. We are all witnesses to it still, for, as the apostle declares, [HGL245] "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now."

While the very essence of the divine character is declared to be love, there are other elements equally necessary, namely, justice, wisdom, power. While divine sympathy and love were unquestionably moved toward humanity from the very beginning of the execution of the penalty, "Dying, thou shalt die," nevertheless divine wisdom and justice forbade the exercise of divine love in any manner that would conflict with wisdom and justice. For instance, divine wisdom would properly rule that if the Almighty were to break His word and lift the penalty of death from the condemned ones, not only would it not be right so to do, but it would furnish a bad lesson for mankind in the future, for they could say that if God could violate His terms on one occasion, He could with equal propriety repeat such exercises of mercy, and thus to some extent God would become particeps criminis'a sharer in sin by countenancing it.

Furthermore, this would be establishing a bad precedent, a wrong precedent in the sight of the entire universe. As the myriads of holy angels would look on and perceive that God could and did countenance sin and that He did lift from the sinner the death penalty he had pronounced on Him, it would be a suggestion that every holy angel would have a similar right to expect divine clemency for once at least. It would be tantamount to saying that God did not object to each of His creatures indulging once in sin that He was willing to pass by, overlook, forgive one transgression for each. What a lowering of the divine standard of righteousness on God's part this would have been in the sight of all His intelligent creatures! Wisdom, therefore, forbade the exercise of clemency in the case of our first parents forbade that their sin of disobedience should be forgiven them, forbade that they should be restored by the Almighty to the Garden of Eden and all the privileges previously enjoyed. Wisdom insists that the death penalty, being once stated and having been merited, must not only be pronounced, but must be executed.

Divine justice, too, had a voice in the matter, declaring that the standard of righteousness as a condition for eternal life must be maintained that for God to cancel the penalty would mean a violation of justice upon the part of Him Who is the author of justice and Whose will is the standard of justice. Such a thought of such a forgiveness of sin and annulling of its penalty could not, therefore, be entertained by the Almighty no, not for an instant.

But divine love had another plan, with which divine justice and divine wisdom could and did fully concur; and that plan the scriptures tell us was formulated before the foundation of the world long before the creation of our first parents, whose fall into sin was foreseen. The remedy which love arranged for the recovery of the sinner and for the annulment of his death sentence was through the death of a substitute for Adam. If a substitute for Adam could be found who would pay Adam's penalty, justice could make no objection to Adam having another trial, for its claims would be met by his substitute. This was exactly the divine plan and what occurred when the Lord Jesus gave Himself as man's ransom-price or substitute when He died the "just for the unjust." 1 Pet. 3:18.

Of course no member of Adam's race could be his substitute, because all had shared in his fall; and, all being imperfect, were themselves under condemnation of justice. The Prophet Job expresses this matter clearly, saying: "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one." (Job 14:4.) Again, we read: "None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him." (Psa. 49:7.) Thus it came that it was necessary under the divine decree that the Savior of men should be a being whose life was not tainted by Adam's sin, and yet must be a member in some way of the human family and associated with it in order that God might be just and yet be the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. Rom. 3:26.

It was to fill this requirement of justice that our great Lord and Master left the heavenly courts, laying aside His glory, permitting his life to be transferred, so that, in due time, he was born as the babe of Bethlehem. Thus he who was rich for our sakes became poor that we through his poverty might be made rich. (2 Cor. 8:9.) We have not the time on this occasion to consider the modus operandi by which this transfer from the heavenly plane to the earthly plane of being took place and yet maintained the purity, the perfection, the holiness of the child and subsequently of the man Christ Jesus. This showing of how, though born of an imperfect mother, our Lord was undefiled by sin and imperfection- "was holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners" many of you already have in print, and others who desire it can readily obtain it in the fifth volume of the Millennial Dawn series.

Our Lord Jesus "poured out His soul unto death" - "He made His soul an offering for sin" He substituted in death His soul or being in exchange for the condemned soul or being of Father Adam; and in redeeming Adam, who was the one under sentence of justice, He redeemed the entire race of Adam which was sharing his sentence. Thus, in brief, we have an outline of the atonement for sin which God purposed, provided, accomplished. Our Lord gave Himself up and was put to death in the flesh as "the man Christ Jesus," as the ransom for the man Adam and his entire family and inheritance. But the Father, in harmony with His previous engagements, would not allow His obedient Son to suffer loss through this great transaction. The Father could not restore His Son to human nature without annulling the ransom-price paid to justice, and thus annulling the redemption of humanity; but neither was this desirable any way, for had Jesus been restored by resurrection to human nature it would have been an everlasting perpetuation of the "poverty" condition to Him Who previously had been "rich" and Who became "Poor" for our sakes. The Father, on the contrary, raised our Lord Jesus from the dead not to human conditions, neither to angelic conditions, but to the most glorious of all conditions, to the divine nature- "far above angels and principalities and powers, and every name that is named." (Eph. 1:21.) Thus the work of our Lord Jesus not only secured to mankind the unspeakable gift of eternal life, but it secured to Him the highest of all glory and honor and dominion and power next to the Father, in the Father, in the Father's throne. Rev. 3:21; Philip. 2:9.

The scriptures represent this great transaction from various standpoints, just as we may take photographs of [HGL246] a great building or of a city from various standpoints. One of these pictures of our Lord's work represents Him as having "bought" the whole world with His precious blood represents Him as having become the purchaser of Adam and his entire family of now some 20,000,000,000, all seriously impaired, mentally, morally and physically, and the vast majority of them in the great prison-house of death, in the tomb. The purchaser may do what He wills with His own, and His will on the subject is in exact accord with the Father's will, for He came to do the will of Him that sent Him and to finish His work. In harmony with the Father's will, the Son now takes possession of just so many of the human family purchased as the Father draws to Him. His declaration is, "No man can come unto Me except the Father, who sent Me draw Him; and he that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out."

The great mass of the world of mankind are, therefore, not at all included in this present dealing with the church of believers selected from the world, and with whom the great Redeemer began to deal, shedding forth upon such believers at Pentecost the holy spirit, thus accepting them according to the Father's plan, in this figure, as members of His own body, of which He is the head. It is in line with this illustration that the apostle declares that we, as members of the body of Christ, should recognize one another and appreciate the fact that every member of this elect church represents, to some extent, the Head, so that the hands cannot say to the feet, I have no need of you and vice-versa. (1 Cor. 12:12-27.) Under another illustration the Lord represents these called-out ones, these believers, these followers in His footsteps, as being a chaste virgin church espoused to Him, by and by, at the close of this dispensation, to become His bride and joint heir in all the glorious things and experiences of eternity.


It is to this class of called-out ones, to this church class, that the apostle addresses the words of our text. They are not in the hands of the Father, but reckonedly are in the hands of the Son for mercy's sake. If each believer were recognized of the Father separately and individually, then each one of them separately and individually would come under the great law of the universe, the same that applies to the angels, the same applied to Adam in his perfection namely, "The wages of sin is death." These new creatures in Christ, not yet being perfect, would if in the Father's hands, subject to His inflexible law of do and live, fail to do and die, would all be sure of condemnation, because, however changed are their minds, however transformed their wills, however they are seeking to walk not after the flesh but after the spirit, nevertheless they still have, as the apostle declares, this treasure of the new mind, the new heart, the new will, in the old earthen vessels, in the blemished body, and cannot do the things that they would.

It is very plain, therefore, that we not only needed to be redeemed from the original sentence of death, but that we needed also to have our Redeemer's merit over us as an imputed robe of righteousness to cover our defects and blemishes, until such a time as having been trained in the school of Christ, having learned of Him, we finally have His approval and the Father's approval of the attitude of our hearts toward sin and toward righteousness, and that in the resurrection we shall be clothed upon with the new bodies unblemished by sin and imperfection in the which we can and will delight to do the divine will perfectly. Until that time we must abide in the hands of the Mediator, receive His schooling and assistance and preparation for a share in the first resurrection, to be His joint heirs in the kingdom. Then our Lord, our head, our bridegroom, will present His faithful "little flock" before the Father "faultless," ( Jude 24), in which condition they will have the Father's full approval and be in no danger of condemnation at His hands.

Now note how the apostle's words are addressed in the context to this class that now take heed while in the school of Christ to make use of all the blessings and opportunities afforded them and to cultivate the fruits and graces of the spirit, so that they may be meet for the kingdom; ready for the resurrection change. In verse 23 he tells us that such must hold fast the profession of their faith without wavering; they must not only have this faith in their hearts, but in their lives, whatever it may cost them so to do in the way of the world's opposition and scorn. In verse 24 he tells us that all these pupils in the school of Christ should be studying continually the development of character, of love, and seeking to provoke one another to love. In verse 25 he tells us of the expediency of assembling ourselves together with those of like precious faith for mutual upbuilding and assistance in the heavenly life; and he intimates that as the great time of trial and testing in the end of this gospel age draws nearer and nearer there will be more need for the Lord's true people to have contact with each other, doing all in their power to uphold one another. In verse 26 he points out that for this class to enter willfully into sin would be an evidence that they had lost the spirit of holiness, that they had died to the new life, and he assures us that such need look no farther for mercy or favor from the Lord. His declaration does not in any sense of the word touch the world. It applies solely to the called-out class, the new creation who "have received the knowledge of the truth."


For those of this class to sin with willful intention and deliberation, the apostle shows, would mean that they were fit subjects for the second death. Not only so, but he assures us that the interest of such in the sacrifice for sins is at an end they have their share of the merit of Christ's atonement and misuse it. We cannot hope anything for them, but can only look forward to the divine judgment against them, which will devour and destroy them in the second death as adversaries of God.

In verse 28 the apostle points out that this dealing with the church of Christ was illustrated and typified in the shadowy types of the law. As Moses was the typical mediator to fleshly Israel, so Christ is the anti-typical mediator to spiritual Israel, and as those who despised Moses' law died without mercy, those who despise the law of the anti-typical Moses, we may be sure, shall have still more severe punishment if they by willful sin show that they despise the spirit of God's grace, if they count the blood of Christ by which they were redeemed a common, ordinary thing, and in general exhibit a lack [HGL247] of appreciation for the privileges and blessings conferred by God through the great Redeemer.

We must remember, however, that the apostle's words refer to a class that has been "begotten again," that has received a clear knowledge of the truth, and that in the face of these favors turn from the Lord and His gracious provisions. The punishment upon the natural Israelite who despised Moses' law was death, and the penalty upon the spiritual Israelite who despised the law of the anti-typical Mediator will be death second death. This second death will be much "sorer" that is, more severe, more destructive a penalty than the one inflicted against those who disobeyed Moses' law; because the latter being typical, the individual merely died as he would have done anyway, to have his opportunity in due time, with the remainder of mankind, to secure the general blessings secured to all by the death of the great Mediator, Jesus; but the severer penalty for these will be the second death, from which there will be no recovery no resurrection.

In verse 30 the apostle fortifies his argument by quoting the word of the Lord, "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord," and again, "The Lord shall judge (test) His people." The suggestion is that all who profess faith in Christ, who profess a love for righteousness, profess to be tired of sin and ready to abandon it, profess to accept Christ as their Redeemer and to make full consecration of their lives to Him these will all be tested as respects the genuineness of their professions. And if any of these through willful sin and through repudiation of the Lord's counsel and assistance and provisions, or if they reject Jesus as their Mediator by denying that He bought them with His precious blood, if they insist on appealing the case to the Father, ignoring the only name given under heaven and among men whereby we must be saved, they will have come to the testing point before they are ready for it, and their experience will be what our text declares, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

It is fearful for any of these who have been lifted out of the world and accepted Christ and have their standing in Him and under the robes of His righteousness it is a fearful thing for them by repudiating the Redeemer, to fall out of the hands of mercy's representative, Jesus, into the hands of Jehovah's justice. It is sure to condemn them, it will mean their destruction, the second death, from which there will be no redemption, no resurrection, no recovery of any kind.


Let us apply the lesson, dear friends, very closely to our own hearts. We, in company with all the Lord's dear people of this gospel age, have been greatly favored by Him in the forgiveness of our sins, in our adoption into His family, in our begettal of the holy Spirit, in our instruction through the word, in our fellowship of spirit and the leading and guidance and instruction and corrections of divine providence as the members of the house of sons under the control of the great Son, the Lord, our Redeemer. Let us see to it that we follow His counsel, that we walk in His steps, that we may attain the great blessing of joint heirship with Him in the kingdom. Let us see to it that in no sense of the word shall we, either by word or act or thought, repudiate the necessity and efficacy of the great atonement sacrifice by which we were "bought," and under which we have already become participants in the favors of the new covenant. To such the Apostle Peter declares, "An entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." 2 Pet. 1:11.

Just another word respecting the application of the principles of our text to the world in the next age, in the millennium, when the world in general will be on trial. Under the new covenant fleshly Israel, yea, all the nations of the earth, will be transferred from the hands of justice, wherein they are suffering the penalty for sin, "Dying thou shalt die," to the hands of mercy, our Lord Jesus being the representative of the Father's mercy toward the imperfect race who need the mercy, and whom in harmony with the divine plan, He "bought" with His own precious blood. We well know that many Christians deny that the world in general was bought with the blood of Christ, and claim that only Christians were thus redeemed. But we might quote many scriptures to the effect that "Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man," and that this is to be "testified in due time." (1 Tim. 2:6.) One text in particular is emphatic it reads: "He is a propitiation for our (the church's) sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 John 2:2.) The world's time for getting its share of the blessings through Christ will be the millennial age after the church class has been called out, tested, tried, sifted, and the overcomers have inherited the kingdom and joint heirship with our Lord in His millennial work and glory.

During the millennial age, the Mediator, Christ (head and body), will have sole and absolute control of the world. At the close of this gospel age this great King is to "take to Himself His great power" and begin the reign of which the apostle speaks (1 Cor. 15:25) saying: "He must reign until He hath put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." The transfer of the world from the hands of justice to the hands of Christ means the ending of the "curse," the ending of the death penalty against our race. But while the penalty will be ended, while justice will no longer be requiring the death of mankind, while Christ's kingdom will be in power for the very purpose of blessing and uplifting mankind out of the sin and death conditions to the full perfection of life, and all that was lost, nevertheless mankind will still be "bruised by the fall," and still be imperfect and weak in the flesh and liable to sin; and it will require the entire work of the millennial age in the way of instructions and chastisements and blessings to help them out of their demoralization and imperfection. Hence the millennium is called the "times of restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began." (Acts 3:19-21.)

However, should part of the world during the millennial age persistently, knowingly, willfully refuse to obey the great King and to walk in the ways of righteousness, they will be cut off in the second death that is to say, they will fall from favor, fall into the hands of justice and immediately be pronounced unworthy of life, and die the second death. At the close of the millennial age, when all who have [HGL248] given heed to the message of the great King and who have availed themselves of the glorious opportunities of His mercy and assistance, will be turned over to the Father perfect. Then the mediatorial kingdom of Christ shall terminate, as the apostle declares: "He must reign until He hath put all enemies under His feet. . . . And when all things are subdued unto Him then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all." That will be the end of the plan of salvation, when Christ shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father when He shall have put down all rule and authority and power. 1 Cor. 15:24-26.

With the mediatorial benefits of Christ thus withdrawn, all the world of mankind will be in the hands of the living God. But that need not be to them a "fearful thing," because the great Mediator during the period of His long reign will have blessed them and restored them to absolute perfection, in which condition they will be in some respects like Adam in his perfection, except that they will have a much wider range of experience and knowledge. Then the Father's law will test them, and if any of them be found in the slightest degree disloyal the penalty upon such will be the sentence of death, as it was in the case of Adam, only this time it will be the second death, from which there will be no hope of recovery. Rev. 20:10.

Coming back now to a consideration of our own standing in the present time and to the primary application of the apostle's words in our text, we have the picture of our own weaknesses and helplessness on account of the fall and our share in it by heredity. Our new minds are indeed willing and anxious to do the divine will, but our flesh is weak, and therefore how to perform perfectly we find not. But God has provided for us the great refuge in His Son, respecting which we sometimes sing with the poet:


We are safe so long as we "abide in Him." We would be unsafe the moment we would depart from Him by departing from His counsel in respect to sin and our proper attitude toward it; for step by step the tendency would be toward death the second death. We would not say that none who have taken steps toward walking after the flesh, after they have become the Lord's people, may not be chastened and forgiven and restored to divine favor and mercy; but we do say that "the end of that way is death;" and that whoever is wise will seek to avoid any step in that direction. There is another way of departing from the Lord equally reprehensible with that of walking after sins; namely, to abandon faith in Him, to reject Him as our Savior, and to reject also His work of grace on our behalf as the great and only channel of divine mercy. To thus cut ourselves off from Christ by losing faith in Him as our Redeem is to cut ourselves off from the divine mercy which He represents- "neither is there salvation in any other." Beloved friends, let us hold fast the confidence of our rejoicing firm unto the end. Faithful is He Who hath called us, Who also with do for us exceedingly and abundantly more than we could ask or think if we abide in Him.

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