Massillon, Ohio., April 21, 1907


Pastor C T Russell, of Allegheny, Pa., preached here twice to large and attentive audiences. We report his discourse, the text of which was Matt. 28:20. He said:

In our text we have one of the very last assurances that the Redeemer gave to His followers after His resurrection and prior to His morning Ascension. It has been a source of comfort to many of us in that it implies a protecting care on the Lord's part over all the interests of all those who are truly His; and it has also been a source of protection to many as they have realized not only the Lord's power to see their difficulties and to deliver from them, but also His knowledge of their course in life their sins of omission and commission, their successes and their failures. Nevertheless many of the Lord's people have had perplexity in respect to how they should understand this promise. If it were a fact that the Lord really went away and promised that He would come again in the end of the age to receive His people to Himself, how could He be present with them always in the interim? If, as He said, He ascended to His Father and our Father, to His God and our God (John 20:17) how could it be that He could be always with us? If He sat down with the Father in His throne how could He be still with His people in the world? Moreover, how could He be with all of His people wherever two or three were not together in His name, as on another occasion He promised?

In order to comprehend intelligently and appreciatively these promises of the Lord we must have in mind the great change which He experienced in His resurrection. It was after His resurrection that He said to His disciples, "All power in heaven and in earth is given unto Me." It was after His resurrection that He appeared in their midst, the doors being shut, and later on vanished from their sight, the doors still being shut. It was after His resurrection that He appeared in various forms during lengthy intervals throughout the forty days between His resurrection and ascension. It doubtless caused the early disciples considerable confusion of thought at the time the words of our text were uttered. Nevertheless the Lord's words were fulfilled to them, that many of His parables and dark sayings while with them would be much better understood after Pentecost, after the holy spirit had been imparted to them. As the man, Christ Jesus our Lord, practiced no legerdemain He did not appear and vanish either frequently or even once. He was subject to the same laws and rules that govern other human beings, except as respects His exercise of the holy power committed to Him in governing sea, waves, disease, etc. The change which He experienced in resurrection explains the entire situation and prepares us to understand our text.


"There is a natural body and there is a spiritual body," wrote the apostle. (1 Cor. 15:44.) Our Lord was a spirit being in the beginning prior to the time when "He was made flesh and dwelt among us." (John 1:14.) During the thirty-three and a half years of His life He was a human being subject to the usual conditions of humanity except where, with the Father's sanction, He was the Finger of God, used the Holy Spirit, the holy power of God in the working of miracles; but in His resurrection from the dead another change occurred, transforming Him back again to the spirit plane of being. Thus the apostle explains the resurrection, saying, "Sown a natural body, raised a spiritual body; sown in weakness, raised in power." True, these words are used to describe the resurrection of the church, [HGL369] the body, the bride of Christ; but His assurance is also all who share in this first resurrection are sharing in His resurrection, and the change which thus comes to us as His members is merely an experience of what our Lord already enjoyed when the Father raised Him up by His own power. The Apostle refers to this again, saying: "Now the Lord is that spirit" He is a spirit being. (2 Cor. 3:17) The disciples called Him Lord and Master when in the flesh and they did well for so He was, and He is still the Lord and Master to all who are truly His, though now in a more glorious condition the heavenly. He did humble Himself and took the bondsman form for the "suffering of death," as the apostle assures us (Heb. 2:9), but Him hath God not only raised from the dead but highly exalted, not only to the spirit plane of being, but to the highest place in that plane making Him partaker of the divine nature, "far above angels, principalities and powers, and every name that is named." (Philip. 2:9, 10)


We should guard ourselves against unscriptural thought in connection with our heavenly Father, our Lord Jesus and all the spirit beings. Someone long ago asserted of these that they were omnipresent; that is to say, spirit beings could be present everywhere at the same time. This unscriptural declaration has been fruitful of much confusion and error, and may safely, therefore, be attributed to our arch-enemy and adversary, the devil. It seemingly honors God, but in reality paves the way to His dishonor and to the confusion of His people. As an illustration of the confusion that may come from this false doctrine of the omnipresence of God and Christ and the angels note the absurdity built upon it by the theosophists, Christian Scientists and, to some extent, by others, errors to which those are liable who receive this doctrine of omnipresence as scriptural.

The argument as used by some of those referred to is that God is everywhere present, therefore, He is in this stone, He is in that piece of wood, He is in that piece of metal, He is in my body, He is in the horse or the sheep, He is everywhere. Such absurdity! Who could believe it, do you say? We answer that many people have twisted and warped their minds gradually to the acceptance of these absurdities. These now proceed to say, in what way is God in the wood, in the stones, in the iron, or in the trees, in the sheep or in the dog? and they answer their own question, saying, God merely signifies good, and in one sense of the word good is useful; hence, to say that God is in the wood is merely to say that there is something useful in that wood. It can either be used in the construction of buildings or furniture or as fuel, there is something good in it. The same way the argument applies to animals, metals, minerals; they are all good for something, and if good means God, then God is in them all.

If to some one this appears a harmless kind of error, let him not conclude that he is right without further investigation; he will then perceive that by the time he has reduced God to signifying merely good he has destroyed his conception of God as a being, as a personality. Or, if it be Christ that is thought of as being omnipresent, then the personality of Christ is thus blotted from the mind, and instead of God and of Christ we merely have principles of goodness and justice and love. What a fearful loss this is to any one who has ever had a personal God and a personal Savior. But it does not come in suddenly; that would be too shocking and would be repulsive. It comes in gradually. First, the absurdity of it is amusing; then an endeavor is made to see if we could get our minds to operate after the manner of those who reach this conclusion; and the next step is that the possibility of looking from the standpoint of another proves that that other standpoint is correct. Thus gradually, too, many lose their faith, not having any substitute whatever and indeed it is impossible to find a substitute for God and for a Savior.


(Psa. 116:7)

Whenever through curiosity or any other reason our hearts or minds remove to any other foundation than that which is laid for us in the word of God, our entire Christian faith and its rest are more or less shaken. And this should alarm us, but our adversary is adroit, and we are handicapped by the errors received from the "dark ages" and by the subtlety of the argument that to deny the omnipresence of God would be to seriously dishonor Him; and thus some well-intentioned souls, not however from the class the Lord is specially selecting or electing now, wander from his pasture and care, neglecting the Shepherd's voice. He will doubtless recover them in due time, but meantime how great their loss in connection with the privilege of this Gospel age, joint-heirship with their Lord, the heavenly Bridegroom. Only occasionally does one of the truly spirit-begotten sheep, thus neglecting the voice of the Shepherd, wander into these forbidden paths. We may be sure that the Shepherd will call after them in various ways, because they are His, and it is for them to hearken to the text we have quoted, "Return unto the Lord, O my soul, for He hath dealt bountifully with thee."

Where else can we find such good nourishment, such refreshment, as in the word of God? Those who have tasted that the Lord is gracious, and who have come to any appreciation of His word, should very soon realize the emptiness of the error and should quickly seek for the old paths. What rest of heart could there be for any who once had real fellowship with the Lord as a person, and who have learned to know Him through His word and through His providences what rest could such have in the barren wastes of speculation, which teach that He is merely a good principle that may be found anywhere, in sticks, stones, beasts and birds and creeping things. "Return unto thy rest, O my soul." Rest thee in the precious promises of God's word; know Him as thy Father, and His glorious Son as thy Redeemer and Instructor; hearken to His voice, to be sanctified through His truth; make ready as the virgin bride of Christ for the nuptial feast, so long promised and to be enjoyed to the close of this age, when the elect shall all be completed and enter into the joys of their Lord, and with Him begin the great work of blessing the world uplifting it out of sin and death to all that was lost, to Eden and perfection and the image of God. [HGL370]


Coming then to the Scriptural proposition that the Lord Jesus did personally ascend to the Father a spirit being, and that nevertheless He did promise to be with His disciples wherever they might meet in His name throughout this Gospel age, we inquire in what sense is He present with us? The answer comes from the Master's own words. He informs us that He and the Father take up their abode in the minds of those who are truly consecrated to the divine will. But how? The answer is by His spirit, which dwells in us. Here again confusion comes to many minds, and they say, "Yes, the Holy Spirit; but how can the Holy Spirit be in my heart and in the heart of another Christian on the other side of the globe and in the hearts of all Christians throughout the world? How can the Holy Spirit be everywhere present?" Their difficulty is that they think of the Holy Spirit, not as the Scriptures present the matter, but along the lines of the errors which were introduced into the church as early as the third century, but which are quite unscriptural. They think of the Holy Spirit as a person. Of course a person could not be in your heart and in my heart and in the hearts of all the Lord's people everywhere at the same moment; it is an absurdity to think so, and no Scripture gives any warrant for it.

What the Scriptures do tell us, and what we can understand and what we can appreciate as reasonable, is that the Holy Spirit is the spirit or influence or power of the Father and of the Son, and this power or influence we can readily see can be exerted by the Lord everywhere. When we think of the meaning of the word spirit in the Greek, pneuma and that it signifies that which is powerful but invisible, we can see why angels are called spirits and why God Himself is declared to be a spirit, and how the Lord Jesus is called a spirit because all of these have power but are invisible to men. But the word spirit has still further reaching signification; it applies to any influence or power proceeding from any human being or a spirit being, because that power or influence is invisible. Thus, for instance, the Truth has power over the minds of men and thus over their conduct; hence it is spoken of as the spirit of Truth, the power of the Truth. So we read of the spirit of man, the power or influence of a man; so we read of the spirit of life, the power or energy of life, and again we read of the spirit of a sound mind, or a well-balanced disposition or judgment. These are illustrations of the Scriptural use of the word spirit; and we find on the other hand that the same word spirit, with the same meaning, is used in an evil sense, as, for instance, the spirit of wickedness, the spirit of sloth, the spirit of evil, the spirit of deceit, the spirit of dishonesty, the spirit of untruth, the spirit of the devil.

As there can be a spirit or power or influence exercised by man upon his fellow men and upon the lower animals, is it unreasonable to believe that the Great Creator, Himself a spirit being of the highest order, is able to exercise an influence upon the hearts of men through the Truth, or through a thousand agencies or channels which He may use? And would not this influence or power proceeding from God be, like Himself, holy? And is it not therefore properly called the Holy Spirit, the spirit of the Father? And since the Son is in full accord with the Father, is it not appropriate that we read that the spirit proceeds from the Father and from the Son? And can we not distinguish between this power and influence exerted by the Father and the Son upon us and by a spirit being? We can see how this influence can be exerted throughout the whole world upon all of the Lord's people everywhere and at one time, but it would be monstrously unreasonable to ask anyone to believe that a spirit being could be present in all hearts, in all minds, the world over.


It will be remembered that our Lord, consoling His disciples, promised that after He had ascended to the Father He would send them the Holy Spirit, which would comfort them and be with them as His representative. His words are: "I will not leave you comfortless; I will come unto you." Hence the Holy spirit in the Lord's people is to them instead of the Lord Himself throughout this Gospel age. And what comfort they have received! What a blessing! What rest of heart! Not through having a person, or trying to believe in such an impossibility as that a person should be in each one and everywhere at once, but with the right understanding that this spirit or power or energy from the Lord Jesus is with us for our comfort, guidance and edification. What beauty and simplicity we find in this message from the Word.

While day by day the world, as represented by scientists, is finding what it considers to be natural laws governing the universe, which to them do away with the necessity for a God, the Lord's people, on the contrary, are finding in these same modern discoveries fresh evidences of the truthfulness of the Lord's Word and fresh help in understanding the modus operandi by which the Lord fulfills His gracious promises. For instance, a very few years ago the electric telegraph was unknown; yet today through a little wire a current may be sent which will communicate thought to the end of the world. If man with his limited energy and capacity can be guided by the Lord to the use of such a power in such a marvelous manner, shall we not say that the Great Creator Himself could do as much, and far more? If today, by the use of the telephone, we can speak to a little hole in the wall in our private room and communicate with a friend miles away in a private room without another ear to hear, shall we say that God, who arranged all the laws of nature, has no power to communicate with His people? Coming to the marvelous wireless telegraphy, we see in it something that still better illustrates the power of God through the Holy Spirit to communicate with, to cheer, to comfort, to assist, to direct as He may please any and all of His people anywhere, everywhere. Let us then appreciate rightly the meaning of the Lord's words that He will be with the twos and threes, that His Holy Spirit would comfort them, that this power from the Father would be a blessing to them during the period of His absence.

Is it asked, why then was it necessary that Jesus should leave His people and go to the Father before the holy spirit should come? We answer that such a delay would not have been necessary if the holy spirit were a person, but was necessary because the holy spirit is an influence, [HGL371] a power, from the Father and from the Son. To get the matter before our minds let us remember that mankind had been ostracized by his Creator, cut off from fellowship and placed under a curse or sentence of death because of sin. Let us remember that God had so arranged the matter that He could not deal with any of the race as sons and adopt them by His holy spirit until after they had been redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus. Let us remember that it was not only necessary that Christ should die for our sins, but as the scriptures explain it was then necessary that He should ascend on high to the presence of God, there to present on our behalf the merit of His sacrifice. It was as a result of this presentation that the forgiveness was granted to all those who believed, and who turned from sin, and who have consecrated themselves irrevocably to the Lord as members of the body of Christ. The holy spirit, or influence or power from the Father and from the Son was extended then at Pentecost first to these in this begetting sense, and since then the same spirit has still continued, with the church and was made available to all who in sincerity and truth turned from sin and in faith turned to Jesus, and in consecration presented their all to Him. These are inducted into the family circle, these come under the influence of the spirit of the truth, not only as it is presented to us in the word of God, but as it is communicated also by the various members of the body; and these coming into fellowship with the Lord, who have His approval, come under the special influence or power of the holy spirit as their comforter, their guide.


It was not merely to the disciples of our Lord's day that this promise was made, nor does it contain the thought that His second coming would be in a few days or months or years. We have quoted the marginal reading which we think is much to be preferred, since the word in the Greek here does not mean "world" in the sense in which we use that term today, but signifies epoch or period. Our Lord Himself intimated that there would be a gospel age, at the close of which He would come to gather His elect and to establish His kingdom, which He promised them they should share with Him, saying, "Fear not little flock, it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32); and again, "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne" (Rev. 3:21); and again, "Pray ye, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven." Matt. 6:10.

How gloriously this promise has been fulfilled all do not know. Only those who have taken the direct steps of faith and obedience and consecration, and who following these have received the begetting of the holy spirit only these have received the comfort, only these know of the joy and peace and blessing. Others, numbering amongst them many that are noble, many that are great, many that are well meaning, many that are wise according to the course of the world, could not testify on this subject, because they have not come under the conditions and have not received this blessing and have not had the presence of the Lord through His holy spirit. They are incompetent to testify in the matter, and should not repudiate the Lord's assurance of His presence and aid and comfort without testing the matter by obedience to his directions.

Moreover this appreciation of the spirit of the truth, the spirit of love, the spirit of the Father, the spirit of the Son, the holy spirit, the spirit of a sound mind, the spirit of wisdom, the spirit of sympathy with one another, the spirit of holiness, is a progressive work. As the apostle explains, we may be more and more filled with the spirit, filled with all the fullness of divine power, filled with more and more of the spirit of devotion and more and more with the spirit of holy joy and reverence and rejoicing in the Lord. Those who have not yet started considering the precious privilege of having the friend above all others, a companion ever near and ever dear, the supervisor of our interests, who according to His promise is working all things for our good. Let those who have already tasted that the Lord is gracious, drink still more deeply of His cup and be still more filled with His spirit of love and devotion and holiness. Yea, let us all appreciate more and more the benevolence of our heavenly Father and our Lord in the wonderful arrangement He has made for us during this period of our schooling and instruction and preparation for the glorious place in the kingdom to which He has called us as His bride and joint-heirs, that we may thus be qualified and prepared to extend the blessing of his spirit of holiness and truth eventually to all the families of the earth.

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