The Pittsburgh Gazette, February 29, 1904


Pastor Charles T. Russell of the Bible house, Allegheny, addressed two large and interested audiences at Cumberland, Md., yesterday. In the afternoon his discourse was on "The Oath-Bound Covenant."

In the evening his text was "Godliness With Contentment is Great Gain." 1 Tim. 6:6. His evening address in full follows: Infidelity assails the scriptures as being opposed to progress and advancement, and in proof cites various passages, as "Be content with such things as ye have;" "Be content with your wages;" "Be careful for nothing," and our text, etc. But in this as in other matters,

"Blind unbelief is sure to err
and scan God's word in vain;
"God is his interpreter
and he will make it plain."

Unbelief is generally blind – inclined to take things from the wrong standpoint – and hence, as the apostle has pointed out to us repeatedly, the world by its wisdom knows not God. The believer, on the contrary, assuming that there is superhuman wisdom in the divine word, investigates from that standpoint, and, as the Lord promised, "He that seeketh findeth."

The believer, in proportion to his consecration and Christian development, finds more and more that the testimonies of the Lord's "Word are sure, making wise the simple." (Psa. 19:7)

A wide difference should be recognized as between Christian contentment, which is based upon godliness, and worldly contentment, which is based upon slothfulness – love of ease, selfishness. The scriptures everywhere condemn the latter and everywhere commend the former.


Looking all about us to the civilizations of India and China and in the barbarisms of Africa and other parts of the world, and comparing these with the civilization of Europe, which has spread to America, we see clearly that Christianity must have had something to do with the wonderful progress of all the people who come under Christian civilization. True, they are no more contented than people of other lands – not nearly so much so. Nowhere in the world is godly contentment so lacking as in so-called Christendom. How should we account for these facts, which are incontrovertible? How shall we understand the fact that Christianity has incited to progress yet has not developed large godliness nor great contentment – the very teachings which the apostle inculcates in our text? We answer that the teachings of Christianity are in some respects revolutionary, while in other respects they are extremely conservative. The revolutionary tendency has affected the masses of Christendom, while the conservative features of the teaching have been received and appropriated by, comparatively, only a few – the consecrated, the saintly. True Christianity, whose mouthpiece is the Bible, is the foe of superstition, ignorance, prejudice, slavery of thought. Where else, in what other teachings or writings than the scriptures – in what other holy books of the world – do we find such liberty-inspiring teachings as are presented in the Bible? Every male and female, bond and free, rich and poor, are plainly informed that they have all one standing before the bar of God – that they are all sinners, because all children of the one parentage, because all affected by the fall; and that all need a Saviour and that all who would have salvation now must be saved in exactly the same manner – by faith and obedience. Where else do we find a clerical class entirely ignored as respects any superiority – the whole Church of Christ being called a "royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people?" Where else do we find such statements as those of our Master, "All ye are brethren and one is your Master, even Christ . . . He that is greatest among you shall be your servant." (Matt. 23:8-11)

It is these teachings of the Bible that show that "of one blood God created all the families of the earth," and that "He is no respecter of persons. (Acts 10:34)

These teachings, wherever they have gone, have served to inspire self-respect amongst the lowly and to inspire humility amongst the great. The teachings of scripture are leveling in their character, and, without entering into politics or world government in any degree, the influence upon those who are taught of God through His book are contrary to aristocratic ideals. True, nominal Christianity (Churchianity) has not always stood for these noble things. On the [NS64] contrary, it has frequently supported autocratic government by kings and emperors and popes and priests; but the difficulty has never been with the Bible and its teachings, but with the perversion of these. During the dark ages, when the teachings of the Bible were not communicated to the people, but, instead, the traditions of men, ignorance and superstition and priestcraft flourished and with them autocracy. But in the dawning of the Reformation, with the uncovering of the Word of God, with the lifting from it of the sackcloth of the foreign tongue, with the publishing of it in the languages of the people, human rights began to be recognized, and the wheels of progress in every direction began to turn. No one can be a true child of God, "taught of God," and have reached an advanced position in the school of Christ, without having come to an appreciation of the spirit of liberty, which is associated with the spirit of the truth – without wishing liberty of conscience for himself, and without wishing to grant similar liberty to others. The difficulty with bigots, who would burn one another at the stake for their conscientious convictions, is that they are deficient either in godliness or knowledge, or both.


The context shows us why the apostle introduced the words of our text. There were in his day, as there are today, many who could grasp certain features of Christianity and enjoy them without appreciating its most valuable elements. For instance, amongst the Jews some were attracted to the teachings of Christianity by the liberty which it held out to them in respect to what they should eat and drink. The law had typically marked some articles of diet clean and some unclean, and the avoidance of the unclean was sometimes inconvenient and sometimes called for self-denial. The fact that Christianity imposed no such restrictions, but instructed its followers to eat such things as were set before them, asking no questions for conscience sake, and assured them that to the pure all things were pure – that under the New Covenant the soul was not defiled by the things that entered into the mouth, and gave to each one the liberty and responsibility of choosing such a dietary as would be to his own convenience and for his physical well being – these liberties of the Christians were attractive to some of the Jews who failed to appreciate the much grander privileges and blessings of the gospel. Combating the influence of this thought the apostle wrote, saying, The advantages of the kingdom of God (the church of the present time, the embryo of the coming kingdom) consisteth not in liberty as respects meats and drinks, but chiefly, more particularly, it consists of the righteousness and true holiness inspired, and in the blessings of peace and joy which come with these. He exhorts the brethren to think so little of the liberty respecting diet that they would be willing to sacrifice their liberties in these respects for the good of others at any time – that the blessings and joys of true relationship with God might be extended to others who might be in danger of stumbling over the thought that such dietary liberties would be sinful, expressing the sentiments of his own heart, the Apostle Paul, who loved liberty as much as any, declared himself willing to eat no meat of any kind forever if thereby he could be the more helpful to any who are seeking the way of the Lord. Rom. 14:17


The apostle points out elsewhere that the most humble, the most disadvantageously circumstanced as respects the present life, was really an heir of all things by reason of his union with Christ. He had already emphasized the fact that earthly conditions weigh nothing in the Lord's judgment, and hence that some occupying menial positions in the present life might really in God's estimation be far grander and far nobler than their masters and employers. He had already shown that God's favors to His people in the present time are to be chiefly expected along the lines of spiritual welfare, and that earthly difficulties, trials and disadvantages, persecutions, etc., were to be expected by the Lord's people as chiselings and polishings, fitting and preparing them for greater usefulness in the present life, and particularly qualifying them for the glorious honors and authority of the new dispensation, when the embryo kingdom of the present time would be the kingdom of glory. In verses one and two the apostle shows that this new relationship to the Lord, which is by faith, is not to be understood as affecting the interests of this present life, so that servants under the yoke of slavery should become highminded, assertive and generally unfaithful to the obligations of their positions. He would have them recognize the Lord's knowledge of their conditions and the Lord's power to open up some other arrangement for them if such were His will, and if He saw a change of arrangement to be for their highest, their spiritual interest, as His people. He would have them rest not only as contentedly as they did before they received the gospel message, but more contentedly. Their godliness should not breed in them discontent, but make them joyful in the prospect of the future deliverance and the kingdom blessings, and appreciative of the fact that had they been rich or great in worldly matters they might have had no "ear" for the heavenly promises – "exceeding great and [NS65] precious."

Likewise those serving believing masters should not conclude that the new relationship in Christ absolved them from responsibility to the master, because He was a brother, and because one is our Master even Christ. In spiritual things there is but the one Master, but the one Dictator, "One Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all;" but in secular matters under the present conditions there are of necessity differences amongst the brethren. Neither the apostle nor we would wish to imply that the believing brother or master or employer of others should in no respect be influenced by the principles of his religion in his dealings with his employees. Quite the contrary, so surely as he would become a follower of the Lord and taught of Him, his faith would affect his thoughts and words and doings in many respects and toward all men. The thought would be that this believing brother and employer should regulate his conduct toward all his employees as much in accord with the divine instruction and the Golden Rule as it might be possible to do under present selfish conditions. Thus, not only the believing employees would be benefited by their master's faith and works, but also the unbelieving employees. The believing employee should be content with the same treatment which he would recognize to be proper toward the unbelieving employee; he should be content with the same Golden Rule that should govern all the affairs of the Lord's people, whatever their position in life.


The apostle points out in the context, that some, unable to appreciate the real advantages accruing to the believer, see only temporal advantage, and to these the first and practically only thought is gain – personal advantage as a result of godliness. It would appear that in the apostle's day certain features were stirring up the brethren along the line of earthly advantage through Christianity rather than along the lines of spiritual advantages. Such had grasped only those features of Christianity which would be agreeable to their selfish propensities. They should be treated as false brethren in the church, stirrers up of discontent, "consenting not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ," and to the doctrines which are in accord with godliness. Our Lord Jesus, both by word and example, taught that our labor and strife should not be for the meat that perisheth, nor for food and raiment, nor for earthly advantages and honors, but that we should seek chiefly the kingdom, and should rely upon our heavenly Father to supply us all earthly things according to our needs in His estimation. Such as oppose these same doctrines of the scriptures – such as merely stir up the minds of the people along the lines of selfishness, sowing in their hearts the seed of discontent, the apostle assures us are not teachers of the truth, but "proud, knowing nothing as he ought to know it, doting about questions and strifes of words" – stirrers up of envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings and perverse dispositions of men of corrupt minds, and lacking the real truth of the divine revelation. Their mistake, he assures us, is in reckoning godliness according to the gain that could be made of it in the present life. There are numerous teachers of this kind in the world today. No doubt many of them are sincere, as were those in the apostle's day. There are Socialists, for instance, from conviction, breeders of discontent, because they believe this the way to bring eventually a blessing to many. Good and bad motives commingle in their reasoning and in their teachings, but the sum of their difficulty, as the apostle points out, is that they have received merely a smattering of Christian teachings and have not discerned its essence at all; they are talking about matters which they do not understand.


The godly contentment which the apostle would inculcate is of the kind that is "not slothful in business, but fervent in spirit, serving the Lord."

It finds contentment in being in accord with the Lord, and finds the divine plan so grand, so superior to anything that human ingenuity could devise, that it rejoices to adopt the divine will in every particular. It says, in the language of the poet, "Content, whatever lot I see, Since 'tis my God that leadeth me."

It begins with the true appreciation of personal unworthiness and a proportionate appreciation of divine goodness. It sees through the light of the word that through disobedience a death sentence came upon all the human family. It sees that whatever measure of life and health and strength we possess by nature is so much of divine favor to which we have no proper title. It is appreciative, therefore, of the present life, with its sorrows and trials and difficulties – realizing that present conditions are quite good enough for a race of convicts, under the death sentence. It rejoices in divine mercy when made aware of the mercy of God in Christ; that to secure for mankind an opportunity for resurrection and a future life, the Lord Jesus left the heavenly glory, came down to human conditions that He might take the place of Adam – that He might redeem Adam from the sentence of death, whereby not only he, but all who [NS66] had come under the sentence through him, would be released from that penalty or curse. Learning that in God's due time the curse will be rolled back from the world, and the blessing of the Lord will reach every creature through the millennial kingdom, it rejoices in this gracious purpose of God, and is satisfied to await His time. When informed that a further feature of the divine plan is the selection during this gospel age of a "little flock," chiefly of the poor of this world, rich in faith, to be heirs with Christ in the glorious millennial kingdom, godly contentment overwhelms us with the thought of divine goodness and grace, and gladly accepts the proffer even when assured what the terms or conditions will be – to be not of the world, to be misunderstood by the world, to be counted peculiar, to practice self-denial not only as respects sin but also self-sacrificing as respects human rights, to thus suffer with Christ as a member of His body, the true church. Godly contentment, fed by the "meat in due season of the Lord's word, grows stronger and stronger and more and more appreciative until, as exemplified in the Apostle Paul himself, it is able to "rejoice in tribulation, knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope which maketh not ashamed" – that blessed hope of the glorious appearing of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ – that glorious hope of becoming heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ our Lord to an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, that fadeth not away – that blessed hope of which we spoke this afternoon, the hope based upon the "oath-bound covenant" of God, of which the apostle says, "Which hope we have as an anchor to the soul, both sure and steadfast, entering into that which is within the vail" – the hope of becoming thus, with Christ, members of the seed of Abraham, which shall during the millennial age be privileged to participate in the great work of the kingdom, the work of blessing all the families of the earth with a knowledge of the Lord and with the life which He purchased with His own precious blood for so many as will obey Him.


This is the godliness and this is the contentment which the apostle in our text declares to be great gain. It is a great gain over what we possessed as natural men, without God and without hope, or with little appreciation of God and little hope. It is a great gain, too, as respects even the present life, for, as the apostle elsewhere declares, it has "the promise of the life that now is, and also of the life which is to come." (1 Tim. 4:8)

The advantages of the life which is to come we have already considered; let us now glance at some of the advantages in this present life. We are aware that many sincerely believe that the Lord's people who have godliness are miserable, and their condition anything but enviable. This is because the worldly mind measures the Lord's people by its own standards and from its own standpoint; the worldly think how destitute of joy and blessing the life would be for them were they in a condition which they imagine the Lord's people to be in. But they are not in that condition. The world is continually seeking for happiness, seeking for pleasure, like the hunter who forever hunts but finds little. On the contrary, the Lord's true people have found the pearl of great price; they have found that which satisfies their longings as nothing else can do; they have secured the happiness, the joy, the peace, which the world is seeking after, but vainly, because seeking in the wrong direction. Speaking of this same class controlled by godly contentment the Lord says, "My peace I give unto you – not as the world giveth give I unto you – let not your hearts be troubled neither let them be afraid." (John 14:27)

Not all of the Lord's true people have reached the degree of peace and joy in the Lord and the godly contentment which the scriptures assure us is the portion the Lord designs for his consecrated ones; but as we thus hold out before you the scriptural declaration of our privileges, it is our hope that each will be stimulated to more firmly lay hold upon this blessed condition for the present life, which the Lord designs should be for our comfort and joy in the Holy Spirit. The apostle speaks of this same condition, saying, "Let the peace of God which passeth all understanding rule in your hearts." (Philip. 4:7)

This peaceful condition is to be the rule; anything else is to be the exception and more and more the rare exception. These goodly fruits of Paradise grow freely in the garden of the Lord, even in this present time. Let us partake of them freely and have the refreshment and rest in the Lord which he designed for us, and proportionately we will be letting our light so shine before men that all those whom the Lord hath similarly called to joy and peace and blessing may more and more be attracted, that they with us may journey onward joyful, even in the narrow way, toward the heavenly kingdom.


The lesson which the apostle crystallizes in our text he still further amplifies in the verses following it, in which he addresses the rich and exhorts them to contentment, as in the preceding verses he exhorts the poor and the servants to be content. The gospel of the Lord Jesus is adapted to all conditions. The common leveling of humanity was not the design of the Lord [NS67] for, nor is it applicable to, present time arrangements and conditions. Not until the "little flock" shall reach the kingdom will they reach a plane of full equality; and ever then the scriptural assurance is that amongst those enjoying a participation in the Lord's resurrection, the first resurrection, there will be differences. "As star differeth from star in glory."

It was in the divine design that humanity should not reach a general level. The great leveling time will be during the millennial age, and the leveling processes are represented by the symbolical language that every mountain shall be brought low and every valley shall be exalted. Yet even in the Millennial age – subsequently, as we understand the scripture – there will be law and order and some of humanity will be chosen as representatives of these necessary conditions. Anarchy and lawlessness are contrary to every feature of the divine plan. The apostle's argument is that they who will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition, because the love of money is a root from which springs evil of every kind. The essence of the apostle's argument is that we who have experienced the grace of God in the forgiveness of our sins, and who have been called by Him to joint-heirship with His Son in the kingdom that will bless the world shortly, should consider of chief importance the things and conditions which would assist us in making our calling and election sure. He would have us see not only that riches might be a hindrance to our faithful running in the race in the narrow way, but that even the will to be rich, the desire to be rich, might become a stumbling-stone to us.


It is not because some of the rich are not equally as fine characters as some of the poor, and hence equally as acceptable to the Lord as the poor, that the Lord declares that "not many rich, not many wise, not many great, not many mighty" shall attain joint-heirship in the kingdom; but because riches and honors and fame are apt to entangle and to draw the heart's affections and zeal away from the heavenly things to the good earthly portion being enjoyed. Hence it is that, while many of the rich are noble, yet "not many rich and not many noble" will attain a place in the kingdom. Riches bring with them their trials and their snares, which drown men in destruction and perdition. The apostle does not say that riches send men to eternal torment and flame, but that they tend toward their destruction – the loss of destruction of their usefulness in the highest sense possible in the present time, the destruction of their hopes and interests, etc., in the kingdom in the future, and, if they do not reform, the tendency would be eventually to lead them down to the second death – to utter destruction – to annihilation – the end of all who will not come eventually into accord with the divine arrangement. The apostle's thought is that the tendency of money under present conditions is downward and deathward.


There are many who have "the love of money" who have little of the money itself. The injury comes not so much from the money as from the love of it, hence these money lovers without the money are in as great danger, or possibly greater danger, than many of those who possess the wealth. As the apostle points out, "some coveting after money have erred from the faith and pierce themselves through with many sorrows – possibly without getting the money they coveted. We think of Judas in this connection, and remember how his difficulty was the love of money, how he was willing to sell his Master into the hands of his enemies. And we think of some today who are willing to sell the Master's representatives – His truth and His brethren – some who are ready to deny these because of their love of money. We can only say that they have the spirit of Judas and not the spirit of the Lord. We can only warn those who feel in their hearts such a craving, such a covetousness for money, that they are in great danger – danger as respects this present life, that instead of crowning themselves with wealth and honor they are piercing themselves with many sorrows, wounds of conscience, wounds from friends, wounds from every quarter. We can only admonish, in the language of the apostle, that the Lord's people having food and raiment in reasonable quality and quantity, should be satisfied, content and thankful – should not spend strength in amassing wealth or in worldly ambitions. On the contrary they should begin to enjoy the Lord, to rest their hearts with contentment on Him, to study and rejoice in the glorious "things which God hath in reservation for them that love Him," to enjoy "the peace of God which passeth understanding ruling in their hearts," and to engage with zeal in the service of the Lord; that enjoying His peace and His favor and the glorious hopes, they might communicate the same to all, "even as many as the Lord our God shall call."

In conclusion, then, dear friends, let me urge upon you that you daily and heartily seek to live the new life, as new creatures in Christ Jesus;" to enjoy in this present time the privileges and peace which are properly ours through Christ Jesus our Lord – rest in His finished work as the ground of our peace with God; rest of heart in His promises that those who seek [NS68] first the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness shall have all their necessities supplied according to divine wisdom; rest in the thought that divine wisdom is superior to all other wisdom and superior to any of our own plans and projects. While active in the Lord's service, seeking to let our light shine out before men, seeking to glorify Him in our bodies and spirits which are His, seeking to be "not slothful in business, but fervent in spirit serving the Lord," the peace of God will dwell in us richly, and we shall be content with the results of His work; content that having done all in our power to do, the Lord will graciously accomplish His own great purposes in us in His own due time; content with the thought that all things are working together for good to us and to all who love God, the called ones according to His purpose; content too that the divine plan for the world will in "due time" justify the long ages of expectancy under the reign of sin and death. "Godliness with contentment is great gain."

March 14, 1904

Republished from The St. Paul Enterprise, March 20, 1917


March 14. – Pastor C. T. Russell of Allegheny spoke twice yesterday at the Auditorium in Cincinnati. The morning discourse was on God's Books of Remembrance. The speaker took for his text Mal. 3:16-17: "Then they that feared the Lord spoke often one to another; and the Lord hearkened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name. And they shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels."

Pastor Russell spoke as follows: Words are but pictures by which we convey thoughts. Thus considered, the words of our text are not limited to books shaped and bound after the ordinary custom of our day, nor to books written and rolled as a scroll after the manner of books of olden times when these words were penned. Rather we should take the broader thought, namely, that a book is a symbol of a permanent record, no matter how the record is made, by pen or type impression or by the impress of memory. The God revealed in the Bible differs totally from the gods of the heathen. One noticeable difference is that the heathen gods are all represented as being so great, so dignified, so distant, as to seldom notice their subjects, and then usually in anger and with punishments. But the God of the Bible, on the contrary, reveals Himself as one who, though great, looks down in compassion upon His creatures, taking interest in every incident and affair of their lives, and especially interested in those who are devoted to Him. Repeatedly we are assured that He remembereth our frame, that He knoweth we are dust, that He looks with compassion, sympathy, yea, with love, upon His creatures, notwithstanding their fallen condition. Our text and various other records of the Scriptures emphasize this thought, not only that the Lord takes notice of the interests of His people, but that He takes a permanent or lasting note of their loyalty – that their fidelity to Him is not forgotten and will surely have a reward, even though for the present time circumstances may seem to contradict this, and the Lord's faithful ones may seem to be neglected and in no sense advantaged above their enemies.


God's books of remembrance are frequently mentioned in the Scriptures, but never as records of evil, of sin, nor of sinners. Only of the good does God keep record according to the instruction of this symbol. It may be profitable to notice just why this is so. It is because the whole race of mankind came under condemnation through the disobedience of our first parents. The sentence of death passed upon all without exception. There was no need of writing the names of the condemned ones, for all were condemned; but when God, in great mercy and compassion, provided a redemption of the world through the death of His Son, the proclamation of mercy and forgiveness went forth. During this Gospel Age, while mankind is still in bondage to sin and death, and while the god of this world, Satan, still holds control over the masses of mankind, blinding them through sin and superstition and ignorance and prejudice against the Truth, against God and against righteousness, the few who exercise faith in God are specially pleasing to Him. God does not change conditions so as to interrupt the faith of these or make it unnecessary; but, while testing or proving their faith, He promises them the greater proportionate blessings in future. It is this class that is addressed in our text and respecting whom it is declared that their names are written in a book of the Lord's remembrance, which signifies that this class, specially pleasing to the Lord, will not be forgotten by Him, [NS69] and that He has special rewards for them when His due time for giving the rewards shall arrive. To be thus written in the book of God's remembrance signifies His friendship, His love, His blessing. And as the divine disfavor meant the sentence of death upon Father Adam and upon his race, so the securing of divine favor through Christ implies a return to the favor originally lost and to the everlasting life which God originally purposed for all of His intelligent creatures in accord with Himself. In other words, favor with God meant life everlasting, and divine disfavor means the loss of life everlasting – means the second death – means extinction. Thus the sentence of death that came upon the whole race of man is now being offset to some extent, because through Jesus a way of return to divine favor and to everlasting life has been opened up, and those who secure the divine favor thus have their names written in God's remembrance as His friends. It does not surprise us, therefore, to find this book of remembrance elsewhere styled the "book of life."

But, while the names of the Lord's faithful ones are now written in this book of life, in this book of His remembrance, as amongst His friends, and those whom He approves and desires shall enjoy His favor forever, nevertheless, life itself is not secured now, it is not granted now – merely the promise of it may now be enjoyed. Our names are thus figuratively written in the book of life, in the book of God's remembrance, from the moment we exercise the proper obedient faith in Christ and make our consecration to walk in His steps; but unfaithfulness on our part would cause our names to be blotted out of this book; hence, having come into full relationship, our great concern must be to so faithfully continue in His love and service that He will not blot out our names – that He will continue to esteem us worthy of His love and favor through Christ down to the very close of this present life; and that then as a result of this we may be granted a share in the first resurrection in which we will get back the life conditions, the perfect conditions, absolutely and free from imperfection and death.


This thought is repeatedly presented to us in the Scriptures: I quote you our Lord's words in His message to the churches (Rev. 3:5), "He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed with white raiment, and I will not blot his name out of the book of life, but will confess his name before my Father and before His angels."

The same thought is presented to us in another form in Daniel's prophecy (Dan. 12:1).

Speaking of the resurrection at the close of this Gospel Age, the message is, "At that time my people shall be delivered every one that shall be found written in the book."

Not only are the Lord's faithful people of this Gospel Age interested in this book of life, but the world of mankind during the next age, the Millennial Age, will be similarly interested, though not in the same book of life. The book of life now open is merely for the overcomers of this present time – those who overcome through faith – those who are now called in advance of the world of mankind. With the end of this age this book of life will be permanently closed, for the call of this Gospel Age is a spiritual call, "a heavenly calling," a "high calling," to a change of nature – to life everlasting on a spirit plane and not as human beings. With the dawning of the Millennial Age the divine plan will reach the world in general, and the divine proposition of blessing does not offer a spirit existence to mankind, but a human, earthly existence, which through the Apostle Peter is explained to be "restitution" (Acts 3:19-21) to all that was lost through the fall – to an earthly life, to an earthly Eden, "Paradise restored," recovered from the curse. The new conditions properly enough call for new tests, and likewise the different reward of everlasting earthly perfection and life implies a different record, a different book of remembrance from the one now open, in which only those granted a share in the heavenly calling are recorded. It is in full harmony with this thought that we read in Revelation (Rev. 20:12), in the picture of the Millennial Age and the judgment or trial then granted to the world of mankind, these words – "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God, and the books were opened; and another book was opened which was the book of life, and the dead were judged out of those things written in the books according to their works."


We who now believe in the Lord Jesus rejoice that our faith in Him secures to us a new trial for eternal life. In the first trial our first parents represented themselves and all of their posterity in their failure, and consequently all shared their penalty, death. It was because Christ redeemed us from that sentence of death that we have this trial for eternal life in this present time, and it is because of this same sacrifice for sins that ultimately the whole world will have a trial for everlasting life – through Him who loved us and bought us with His precious blood. This Gospel Age is the trial time for the few that now have ears to hear and hearts to obey and to walk by faith; the next age, the millennial period, will be the world's trial day, when those who have not now ears to hear and eyes to [NS70] see God's grace in Christ shall have their eyes of understanding opened and their deaf ears unstopped, and be brought to a knowledge of the truth. The text just quoted (Rev. 20:12) gives a picture of the world's day of trial for life everlasting. The great white throne beautifully represents the justice and purity of the trial, a full, fair opportunity to be granted every creature to come to a knowledge of God and to a knowledge of His gracious arrangements, and, if they will, to attain to the divine favor and blessing of life everlasting. The dead small and great standing before the throne represents how the world of mankind, including those who have gone down into the great prison house of death, shall during the Millennial Age come forth to the blessed opportunities and privileges of the millennial trial time. The expression "and the books were opened" refers to the general unsealing of the knowledge of truth in that time – particularly it refers to the books of the Bible which are now sealed, dark and incomprehensible to the majority of mankind, but which then shall be opened and clearly understood by the whole world. The truths which will test mankind during the Millennial day will be the very ones which the Lord has emphasized in His blessed book – the words of the Lord Jesus and the apostles and prophets. Thus our Lord declared in advance, "My words shall judge you in the last day" – the Millennial day of a thousand years length. All who will ever come into harmony with God must reach that harmony on the basis of obedience to the divine requirements, the essence of which divine law is love for God and for mankind.


During that time of testing and proving "another book of life will be opened."

The overcomers in that time will not be joint-heirs with Christ in the heavenly kingdom and sharers in the heavenly glory, for such is not the divine provision nor the divine offer. Those exceedingly great and precious promises are for the little flock who during this Gospel Age are faithful even unto death, following in the footsteps of Jesus. Nevertheless, the blessing God has in store for the world is a wonderful blessing – far greater than mankind in general is able to conceive. All those who under those conditions pledge themselves to obedience to the Lord and His kingdom of righteousness will have their names written in that book of life. For the entire thousand years, to its very close, those names may remain written, and will not be blotted out except through a direct violation in letter and in spirit of the contract under which the names were written. And at the close of that period a general test will be applied to them all to prove whether or not they are at heart, as well as outwardly, loyal to the Lord and to the principles of His government, the principles of righteousness. If found disloyal in any degree, their names will surely be blotted out, for nothing is more dearly set forth in the word of God than that all sins, and every person and thing having the slightest sympathy with sin shall be blotted out of existence by that time; so that the new dispensation, the eternity beyond the millennium, will not only be totally free from sin, but, additionally, all who will enjoy that eternity will be such as love righteousness and hate iniquity. That the class mentioned as written in the Lord's book of life during the millennial age is a different one entirely from the class whose names are now being written is evident in another manner, by the declaration that those of the millennial age will be "judged according to their works."

On the contrary, we who are now being judged are tried for life everlasting, are judged according to our faith – "According to thy faith be it unto thee."

Our faith must be corroborated by our works, but under present conditions our works cannot be perfect because of weaknesses of the flesh and imperfections of our surroundings. Only our faith and intention can be perfect now, and according to these the Lord deals with us. During the millennial age, on the contrary, faith will be a comparatively easy thing, and hence not an adequate test. Then, too, works of righteousness will be more and more possible as the world of mankind make progress out of the sin and death conditions of the present time, up, up, up, by restitution processes, nearer and nearer to the perfection that was lost in Eden and redeemed at Calvary. But we are specially interested in our own conditions of the present time, although we greatly rejoice to see in God's Word the blessing and peace provided for all the families of the earth, and which shortly, in due time, will be put within their reach through the glorified Christ Jesus and the Church, which is His body. Deeply interested in the writings of our own names in the book of life, the book of God's remembrance, we turn again to our text to note some of the conditions therein set forth, that we may be the better prepared to make our calling and election sure – to make sure that our names are written in the Lord's great record and that our course in life may be such that He will not blot them out.


The context clearly describes the conditions as they have prevailed through the period known as "this present evil world" – the period in which evil prevails and righteousness is at a discount, the period in which [NS71] "the prince of this world" works and rules in the hearts of the children of disobedience, and those who are faithful to the Lord are not only in a small minority, but are discredited with the majority and obliged to endure hardness as good soldiers – the time to which our Lord referred, saying, "Marvel not if the world hate you; ye know that it hated Me before it hated you. If ye were of the world the world would love its own. "They shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven!" If such be your experience for righteousness' sake, be assured that your names will be written in the Lord's book of remembrance and not blotted out. Verse 15 says: "Now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered."

These words describe the present time, when the prince of this world flourishes and when his followers are numerous, and when the followers of righteousness and true holiness of heart are correspondingly repressed and disdained by the world. The Lord in our text is giving His people the proper thought, to offset the discouraging outward circumstances of the present time. From the human standpoint they might have expected that their becoming the Lord's followers would have meant an increase in worldly prosperity and an immunity from the tribulations, had it not been for the Lord's distinct statements on the subject, assuring all who would be His followers that they must take up their cross if they would follow Him, and that through much tribulation they must enter the kingdom. The consolation is that the Lord knoweth the sincerity of our hearts and of our loyalty to Him and to the principles of His righteousness – that the Lord makes a record of this matter, so that there will be no danger that even a hair of our heads should fall or a solitary disadvantage come to us through obedience to Him that would not be known to and appreciated by Him and ultimately have its reward. It is in view of the exceeding great and precious promises which the Lord has set before His people in the word, and which they see with the eye of faith, that they are enabled to withstand the trials and difficulties and persecutions and evil speakings associated with the narrow way in which they are called to walk as true followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. To these, in proportion as they exercise faith in the Lord, the promises of the future will much more than compensate for the sacrifices and self-denial of the present life. "They shall be Mine, saith the Lord, in that day when I come to make up my jewels."

There is a precious thought here – the class which the Lord is now selecting, the Bride of Christ, the Little Flock which shall be joint-heirs with Him in the kingdom, are to know that in the Lord's sight they are specially precious – "jewels."

They are to know that then God so loved the whole world as to provide through Jesus a great salvation, which shall ultimately extend its opportunities to every member of the race of Adam and give all an opportunity to come to a knowledge of God and to obedience to His laws and correspondingly to everlasting life. He made a special provision, first, for those loyal to Him during this present evil time, when sin so abounds – these are His special jewels, His loved, His own.


And this thought of being "jewels" carries with it an explanation of the trials and difficulties which the Lord permits now to come upon these. The trials and difficulties of life are but the polishings by which these jewels are being prepared the more perfectly to reflect the glorious light of the goodness of God as it shines in the face of Jesus Christ our Lord. In view of the blessings and glories of the future this jewel class may well esteem, as the apostle did, that present trials and difficulties are but light afflictions working out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. With this thought before the mind, we can well overlook the things of this present time, which are but transitory, and keep the eye fixed upon the heavenly things which God hath promised to them that love Him. Incidentally the Lord mentions a fact that is apparent to us all, namely, that this jewel class that "feared the Lord" rather than feared man, and that hearkened to the Word of the Lord rather than to the creeds of men, that feared not what man might do or say unto them, but rather were careful to secure the Lord's favor and blessing – these "spake often one to another."

Such are drawn together – their love for the Lord and for righteousness naturally and properly draws them to others who have the same love, and this is the Lord's intention – that they should speak often one to another respecting Him and His promises, upon which their hopes are built – that they should encourage one another in the narrow way and build one another up in the most holy faith. As the Apostle expresses the matter, they should forget not the assembling of themselves together – and so much the more as they see the day drawing on. It does not surprise us either that our text declares that when the Lord's faithful ones come together to talk of Him and His righteousness and His promises and His plans, and to stimulate each other's faith and to develop one another and to stir up one another's pure minds by way of remembrance of the Lord's Word – it does not surprise us to be informed that the [NS72] Lord hearkens, listens, that He takes note of their sentiments of loyalty and faith, and that these things are associated with them in the divine remembrance – these things mark them as His people, the ones whom He is pleased to bless, and who will be blessed ultimately by being received to Himself as joint-heirs with the Lord in the kingdom.


Some who draw near to the Lord with their lips, but whose hearts are far from Him, think upon their own "name" – their own honor; others think upon the "name" or honor of the sect or party with which they are identified; but those whom the Lord will remember as His jewels will be those who think upon His "name," His honor. Let us be of this class. And such a respect for the divine "name" or honor, will surely not only hinder us from associating that holy name with prevalent false doctrines, "doctrines of devils," which misrepresent our Heavenly Father as purposing the eternal torment of nearly all of our race, but will on the contrary make us zealous in pulling down of such falsities which got their start in the "dark ages" and are "blasphemies" against our God whose name is love, and whose mandate is that all the wilfully sick shall be destroyed – not tormented. Brethren, as fellow pilgrims in the narrow way, in the footsteps of our Lord, we are met together today after the manner described in our text. We are speaking one to another; not in the words of man's wisdom, not along lines of evolution and higher criticism, not along lines of business and pleasure, but along the lines of our Heavenly Father's direction for the study of His Word, for our mutual edification and upbuilding in the knowledge of the grace of God. We, then, according to our text, may realize the Lord's presence with us, that He hearkens to our songs of praise, to our petitions, to our rehearsing of His Word and promises, and that He is with us for our blessing, for our comfort, for our strengthening. As a result of this day's gathering in His name, may we all be the better prepared for the future polishings and testings which we must properly expect to be a part of our lot, that by these we may be made ready for the heavenly kingdom and its glorious opportunities for blessing the world. It will not be very long that the wicked shall flourish as the green bay tree, as the Psalmist describes; it will not be very long that Satan will be the prince of this world; it will not be very long that he that would live godly shall suffer persecution and opposition. Very soon the prayer which our dear Master taught us will be fulfilled, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven."

Very soon the great adversary himself will be bound that he shall deceive the nations no more until the thousand years of Christ's reign are ended; very soon we shall be changed from the earthly conditions to the heavenly conditions, be like our dear Redeemer, see Him as He is and share His glory; very soon the great time of trouble which is now overhanging the world will burst and pass away, and prepare the world for the millennial blessings; very soon the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the whole earth, so that none will need say to his neighbor, "Know thou the Lord, for all shall know Him from the least of them even unto the greatest;" very soon the grand consummation of the divine plan will thus be accomplished. Let us be glad and rejoice and give glory to our Lord, and seek more and more faithfully to walk in His footsteps even to the end of the journey. His grace be with us all.

The Pittsburgh Gazette, March 21, 1904


Even standing room was a premium in the Bible House chapel, Allegheny, yesterday at 3 p.m., when Pastor Charles T. Russell spoke on the significance of the Lord's Supper, after announcing that the date for its annual celebration, according to the custom of the primitive church, will fall this year on March 29 and be celebrated at Bible House chapel and by readers of the Watch Tower publications all over the world on that date at 7 p.m. All who recognize themselves as members of the "Church of the Firstborn whose names are written in heaven" (Heb. 12:23), were cordially invited to participate. His text and discourse follows: "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleaven bread of sincerity and truth." 1 Cor. 5:7-8 Notable among the experiences of typical Israel was [NS73] the Passover. The Feast of the Passover, celebrated every year for seven days, began with the fifteenth day of the first month. It celebrated in a general way the deliverance of the people of Israel from the bondage of Egypt – but particularly the passing over, the sparing alive of the first-born of that nation during the plague of death which came upon the Egyptians, and which, as the last of the plagues, finally compelled them to release the Israelites from their compulsory servitude. The passing over of the first-born of Israel became a precursor of the liberation of the whole nation of Israel, and their passing safely over the Red Sea into freedom from the bondage of Egypt. We can readily see that such a portentous event would properly be commemorated by the Israelites as intimately identified with the birth of their nation; and thus it is celebrated by the Jews unto this day. Spiritual Israelites are interested in those events, as they are interested in all the doings and arrangements of their Heavenly Father, both in respect to His typical people, Israel after the flesh, and in respect to the whole world of mankind. But we have a still deeper interest in those matters which occurred in Egypt, in view of the fact that the Lord has revealed to us the "mystery" that those things which happened unto natural Israel were intended to typify and foreshadow still grander things in the divine plan respecting anti-typical Spiritual Israel – the "New Creation."


In reference to these spiritual things, the apostle declares that the "natural man receiveth them not, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned; but God hath revealed them unto us (the New Creation) by His Spirit" (1 Cor. 2:10-14).

God used the apostles as His mouthpieces to give us certain dues whereby, under the guidance of His Spirit, we may understand the deep things of God. One of these clues is found in our text. Following the apostle's indication, we see clearly that Israel according to the flesh typified the whole people of God – all who shall ultimately become His people, down to the very close of the millennial age; that the Egyptians represented the opponents of the people of God, Pharaoh, their ruler, representing Satan, the prince of evil and darkness; and Pharaoh's servants and horsemen representing fallen angels and men who have associated or who will associate themselves with Satan as opponents to the Lord and His people. As the people of Israel longed for deliverance and groaned under their taskmasters, yet were weak and unable to deliver themselves, and could never have freed themselves from the yoke of Egypt had it not been for the Lord's intervention on their behalf, and His appointment and sending of Moses to be their deliverer, so we see the world of mankind at the present time and throughout the past, groaning and travailing in pain together under the exactions of "the prince of this world" and his minions, sin and death. These hundreds of millions of humanity have a craving for liberty from bondage to their own sins and weaknesses, as well as for release from the penalties of these – pain and death. But without divine aid mankind is powerless. A few make a vigorous struggle and accomplish something; but none get free. The entire race of Adam is in bondage to sin and death, and their only hope is in God and in the antitypical Moses, who He has promised shall deliver His people in His appointed time – bringing them across the Red Sea – representing the second death, in which Satan and all who shall affiliate or sympathize with him and his evil course shall be everlastingly destroyed, as was typified in the overwhelming of Pharaoh and his hosts in the literal Red Sea. But the Lord's people "shall not be hurt in the second death."


The foregoing is the general picture; but, inside of it, and yet a part of it, was another, a particular picture, which related not to mankind in general and their deliverance from the bondage of sin and death, but only to a special class among them – "The firstborn."

Corresponding to these as their antitype, we have brought to our attention by the inspired Word, "the church of the first-born, which are written in heaven" – the New Creation. In the type the first-born occupied a special place – they were the heirs; a special place also in that they were subjected to a special testing or trial in advance of their brethren. They became liable to death before the general exodus, and when the exodus did occur these firstborn ones had a special place in it – a special work to do in connection with the general deliverance, for they became a separated class, represented in the tribe of Levi. They were separated from their brethren, giving up entirely their inheritance in the land, that, according to the divine arrangement, they might be the teachers of their brethren, ministering to them in holy things. This tribe or house of Levi clearly represents "the household of faith," which is represented in turn by the preparatory royal priesthood, which gives up inheritance in earthly things on behalf of the brethren, and shall by and by constitute actually the royal priesthood, whose chief priest is the Lord, and which shall bless, rule and instruct the world during the millennial age. As the first-born of Israel in Egypt [NS74] were subject to death, but were passed over, escaped it, and losing the earthly inheritance became a priesthood, so the antitypical church of first-borns in the present time is subject now to the second death, having their testing or trial for everlasting life or everlasting death in advance of the remainder of mankind, and passes from death unto life, through the merit of the Redeemer's blood – death. Becoming participants in their Lord's grace, they renounce, or sacrifice with Him, the earthly inheritance, the earthly portion, the earthly life, that they may attain heaven and its "life more abundant."

Thus, while the church of the first-born, the New Creation, "all die like men" (Psa. 82:7), and in respect to earthly things seem to lose and renounce more than do others, nevertheless, though the natural man understands it not, these are "passed over," or rescued from death, and, as the royal priesthood, will, with their chief priest, Jesus, be made partakers of glory, honor and immortality. These, whose passing over occurs during the night-time of this gospel age – before the millennial morning dawns, and its sun of righteousness arises – are to be the leaders of the Lord's host, to bring it forth from the bondage of sin and Satan. Mark how this agrees with the language of the apostle, "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together" – "waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God" – waiting for the complete passing over of the church of the first-born in the first resurrection, to glory, honor and immortality. – Rom. 8:22,19


But, now, another feature of the type is important. In order to effect the passing over of the first-born, and the consequent deliverance of the Lord's people in the type, it was necessary that the Passover lamb should be slain, and that its blood should be sprinkled upon the door-posts and lintels of the house, that its flesh should be eaten that night with its bitter herbs, and with unleavened bread. Thus each house of Israel represented "the household of faith," as each lamb represented "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world," and the first-born of each family represented the Christ, head and body, the New Creation. The "bitter herbs" represented the trials and afflictions of this present time, which all the more serve to whet the appetite of the household of faith for the lamb and the unleavened bread. Moreover, as each household was to eat with staff in hand and girded for a journey, it represented that the antitypical first-born and the household of faith who would thus partake of the lamb during the night time of this gospel age would be pilgrims and strangers in the world, who would realize the bondage of sin and death, and be desirous of being led by the Lord into from sin and corruption – into liberty of the sons of God. It was in harmony with this type of the killing of the Passover lamb on the 14th day of the first month – the day preceding the seven days' Feast of the Passover, celebrated by the Jews – that our Lord died, as the antitypical Passover lamb, "the lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world."

At no other time was it possible for our Lord to have finished in death the sacrifice which he began when he was 30 years of age in his baptism unto death. Hence it was that, although the Jews sought many times to take Him, no man laid hands on Him, because "His hour was not yet fully come." John 12:8, 30 As the Jews were commanded to select the lamb of sacrifice on the 10th day of the first month, and to receive it into their houses on that date, the Lord appropriately offered Himself to them on that date, when five days before the Passover, He rode into the city on an ass, the multitude crying, "Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord!" "He came unto His own, and His own (as a nation) received Him not, but as many as received Him (individually) to them gave He liberty to become sons of God."

The nation, through its representatives, the rulers, instead of receiving Him, rejected Him, and thus identified themselves for the time with the adversary. Nevertheless, by God's grace the blood of the new covenant was sprinkled upon the house of Jacob also, and upon all who desire harmony with God, and they were partakers of the merits of the lamb – yet they refused to eat of the antitypical lamb – they lost the opportunity of becoming as a nation the first-born ones, the royal priesthood, the holy nation, the peculiar people of Messiah – they lost the opportunity of sharing in the advance passing over and becoming members of the New Creation, with life more abundant in glory, honor and immortality; but we are glad to be informed elsewhere in the scriptures that they will, nevertheless, have a glorious opportunity of accepting the lamb of God, of eating, appropriating, His flesh, His sacrifice, and of thus escaping the bondage of sin and death, under the leadership of the Lord and of His faithful brethren, spiritual Israel, the antitypical church of the firstborn. Rom. 11:11-26


It was at the close of our Lord's ministry, on the 14th day of the first month, in "the same night in which he was betrayed," and in the same day, [NS75] therefore, in which he died, as the antitypical lamb (the Jewish day being reckoned as beginning at sunset, for this very purpose), that He celebrated with His disciples the typical passover of the Jews – eating, with His twelve apostles, the typical lamb which represented himself, His own sacrifice for the sins of the world and the "meat indeed," in the strength of which the life, the liberties and the blessings of the sons of God are alone obtained. The eating of this supper on the night preceding our Lord's death, and yet the same day, was made possible by the Jewish custom, which began each day, not at midnight, but in the evening. The Lord evidently arranged all the affairs of Israel in conformity with the types which they were to express. As Jews "born under the law," it was obligatory upon our Lord and His apostles to celebrate this type, and at its proper time; and it was after they had thus observed the Jewish supper, eating the lamb with unleavened bread and herbs, and probably also, as was customary, with "fruit of the vine," that the Lord – taking part of the unleavened bread and of the fruit of the vine remaining over from the Jewish supper, the type, instituted amongst His disciples and for His entire church, whom they represented (John 17:20), a new thing, that with them, as the spiritual Israel, the church of the first-born, the New Creation, should take the place of, and supplant the Jewish Passover supper. Our Lord was not instituting another and a higher type of the Passover. On the contrary, the type was about to begin its fulfillment, and, hence, would be no longer appropriate to those who accepted the fulfillment. Our Lord, as the antitypical lamb, was about to be slain, as the apostle expresses it in the text, "Christ our Passover (lamb) is slain."

None accepting Christ as the Passover lamb, and thus accepting the antitype as taking the place of the type, could any longer with propriety prepare a typical lamb and eat it in commemoration of the typical deliverance. The appropriate thing thenceforth for all believers in Jesus as the true Passover lamb would be the sprinkling of the doorposts of the heart with His blood: "Having their hearts sprinkled from a consciousness of evil" (from present condemnation – realizing their sins propitiated through His blood, and that through His blood they now have forgiveness of sins.) These henceforth must eat, or appropriate to themselves, the merits of their Redeemer – the merits of "the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all." (1 Tim. 2:6)

By faith they must partake of those merits, and realize that as their sins were laid upon the Lord, and He died for them, so His merits and righteousness are imputed to them. These things they eat, or appropriate by faith. If then, "The Lord's Supper" took the place of the passover supper, yet not as a higher type – the antitype having commenced what was it? We answer that it was a memorial of the antitype – a remembrancer for His followers of the beginning of the fulfillment of the antitypical Passover.


Thus to accept our lamb, and so to commemorate His death for us, means expectancy regarding the promised deliverance of God's people, the antitypical first-borns, and therefore signifies that those appreciating and memorializing intelligently while in the world shall not be of the world; but shall be as pilgrims and strangers, who seek more desirable conditions, free from the blights and sorrows and bondage of the present time of the reign of sin and death. These partake of the true, the antitypical unleavened bread; they seek to have it in its purity, without the corruption (leaven of human theory, blight, ambitions, selfishness, etc.), that they may be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. They partake also of the bitter herbs of persecution, in accord with the Master's word, that the servant is not above His lord, and that if the Lord himself was reviled and persecuted and rejected, they must expect similar treatment because the world knoweth them not, even as it knew Him not. Yes. His testimony is that none will be acceptable to Him whose faithfulness will not draw upon them the world's disfavor. His words are, "Whosoever will live godly shall suffer persecution."

"They shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven." Matt. 5:11, 12; 2 Tim. 3:12 When our Lord instituted his memorial supper, generally called the Last Supper, it was, as above stated, a new symbol, built upon and related to the old Passover type, though not a part of it, being a commemoration, or memorial of the antitype. As we read, he "took bread, and when He had given thanks He brake it, and said, Take, eat; this is My body, which is broken for you (this represents me, the antitypical lamb;) it represents my flesh. This do in remembrance of Me."

Our Lord's evident intention was to fix in the minds of his followers the fact that He is the antitypical lamb to the antitypical first-borns and household of faith. The expression, "This do in remembrance of me" implies that this new institution should take the place with His followers of the former one, which must now become obsolete by reason of fulfillment. "After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, saying, this cup is the New [NS76] Testament (covenant) in My blood" – the blood of the covenant – the blood which seals the new covenant. "This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me."

We would not understand this to imply the doing of it without respect to times place, etc., but as signifying that henceforth when this cup and unleavened bread were used as a celebration of the Passover, it should on every occasion be considered a celebration, not of the type but of the antitype. As it would not have been lawful, proper or typical to celebrate the Passover at any other time than that appointed of the Lord, likewise it is still not appropriate to celebrate the antitype at any other time than at its anniversary. 1 Cor. 11:25, 26 The apostle adds: "For as oft as ye eat this bread and drink this cup ye do show forth the Lord's death till He come." (1 Cor. 11:26)

This shows us that the disciples clearly understood that thenceforth to all the Lord's followers the annual Passover celebration must have a new meaning; the broken loaf representing the Lord's flesh, the cup representing His blood. Although this new institution was not laid upon His followers as a law, and although no penalties were attached for failure of its proper observance, nevertheless the Lord knew well that all trusting in Him and appreciating him as the antitypical Passover Lamb would be glad to take up the memorial which He thus suggested to them. And so it is still. Faith in the ransom continues to find its illustration in this simple memorial, "till He come" – not only until our Lord's parousia, or presence, in the harvest or end of this age, but until during His "parousia" one by one His faithful ones have been gathered to Him, beyond the "veil" there to partake of it "anew in the kingdom."


The original celebration of the memorial of our dear Redeemer's death was, as we have seen, upon a particular date – the 14th day of the first month, Jewish reckoning. And the same date, reached by the same method of counting, is still appropriate, and will appeal to all who are inquiring for the "old paths" and desirous of walking therein. This annual commemoration of the Lord's death, etc., as instituted by our Lord and observed by the early church, has been revived of late among those coming into the light of present truth. The Hebrew year begins in the spring, with the first appearance of a new moon after the spring equinox. The 14th day is easily reckoned, but should not be confounded with the feast week, which began on the 15th and continued for a week following it – the Jewish celebration. That week of unleavened bread, celebrated by the Jews with rejoicing, corresponds to, typifies the entire future of a Christian – especially representing the entire year until His next celebration of the memorial supper. With the Jew the sacrifice of the lamb was a means to the end; a start for the feast of the week, which had his special attention. Our memorial relates entirely to the killing of the lamb, and hence belonging to the 14th of Nisan (the first month). Moreover, we are to remember that with the change of counting the hours of the day, the night of the 14th of Nisan would correspond to what we would now call the evening of the 13th. It is not surprising that, as more and more the real meaning of the Lord's symbolical supper was lost sight of, the proprieties attaching to its annual observance were also neglected. This becomes more plain of comprehension as we come to understand the history of the matter, as follows: After the apostles and their immediate successors had fallen asleep – somewhere about the third century – Roman Catholicism was becoming influential in the church. One of its false doctrines was to the effect that while Christ's death secured a cancellation of the past guilt, it could not offset personal transgressions after the believer had come into relationship with Christ – after baptism; but that a fresh sacrifice was necessary for such sins. On the basis of this error was built the doctrines of the mass, which, as we have heretofore explained, in some detail, was considered a fresh sacrifice of Christ for the particular sins of the individual for whom the mass is offered or sacrificed – the fresh sacrifice of Christ being made to appear reasonable by the claim that the officiating priest had the power to turn the bread and wine into the actual body and blood of Christ; and then, by breaking the wafer, to break or sacrifice the Lord afresh for the sins of the individual for whom the mass is performed. We have already shown that from the divine standpoint this teaching and practice was an abhorrence in the sight of the Lord – "the abomination which maketh desolate." Dan. 12:31; 12:11


That false doctrine did make desolate, and in its wake came the church's multitudinous errors, the great falling away or apostasy which constituted the Roman system – the chiefest of all anti-Christs. Century after century rolled around, with this view the predominating one, the controlling one throughout all Christendom, until, in the sixteenth century, the great reformation movement began to stir up an opposition and, proportionately, began to find the truth which had been hidden during the "dark ages" under the false doctrines and false practices of anti-Christ. As [NS77] the reformers were granted additional light respecting the entire testimony of God's word, that light included clearer views of the sacrifice of Christ, and they began to see that the papal theory and practice of the mass was indeed the "abomination of desolation" and they disavowed it, with varying degrees of positiveness. The church of England revised its prayer book in 1552 and excluded the word mass. The custom of the mass practically took the place of the annual celebrations of the Lord's memorial supper; for the masses were said at frequent intervals, with a view to cleansing the people repeatedly from sin. As the reformers saw the error of this they attempted to come back to the original simplicity of the first institution, and disowned the Romish mass as being an improper celebration of the Lord's memorial supper. However, not seeing the close relationship between the type of the Passover and the antitype of our Lord's death, and the supper as a memorial of the antitype they did not grasp the thought or the propriety of its observance on its annual occurrence. Hence, we find that among Protestants some celebrate monthly, others every three months, and some every four months – each denomination using its own judgment – the "Disciples" celebrating weekly, through a misunderstanding of the scriptures. They base their weekly celebration of the supper on the statement of the Acts of the Apostles to the effect that the early church came together on the first day of the week, and at such meetings had "breaking of bread." Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7

But these weekly celebrations were not commemorations of the Lord's death. On the contrary, they were love feasts, commemorative of His resurrection, and of the number of breakings of bread which they enjoyed with Him on several first days during the 40 days before His ascension. The remembrance of these breakings of bread, in which their eyes were opened and they knew Him, probably led them to meet on each first day of the week thereafter, and, not improperly, led them to have together a social meal, a "breaking of bread."

The cup is never mentioned in connection with these, while in every mention of the Lord's memorial supper, it occupied fully as important a place as does the loaf.


The introduction of the mass, and its frequent observance, might have been expected to have entirely made void the annual celebration of our Lord's death on its anniversary; but not so. The original custom of the early church to celebrate the great central fact, and the very foundation of her existence, continued, although the celebration of the supper at its appropriate time ceased, superseded by the numerous sacrifices of the mass – and thus this one particular memorial lost its meaning. For centuries it was the custom to count the date of our Lord's crucifixion according to the Jewish calendar, as we have already explained it; but subsequently, with a view to cut loose so far as possible from Jewish institutions, a change in the method of counting the date of the death of Christ, our Passover, was instituted. "The Ecumenical Council" of Nice decreed that henceforth Easter should be celebrated on the Friday following the first full moon after the spring equinox. This not only fixed the celebration of the Lord's death universally on a Friday, called "Good Friday," but additionally it insured that the celebration would rarely indeed be exactly in accord with the Jewish celebration of the Passover. The difference in the method of counting, be it remembered, is that the Jews then waited and still wait until the spring equinox, and begin their month with the first new moon thereafter, and keep the Passover at the full of that moon, on the 14th day. This change occasionally makes a difference of nearly a month between the two methods of counting. As the sun is the symbol of the spiritual kingdom of God, so the moon is the symbol of the law covenant, and of the people who were under the law covenant. Thus there was a special appropriateness in our Lord's being crucified by them exactly at the full of the moon, and that by God's predetermination as concerned the time, so that they could not take Him previously, though they desired to do so, because His "hour was not yet come" (John 7:30, 8:20).

His crucifixion at the full of the moon, and the fact that the moon immediately began to wane, points a lesson to the effect that there Israel brought upon itself as a nation a divine rejection, or casting off for a season, symbolized by the waning of the moon, which represented their national decline. Corroborative of this we quote from a recognized authority, McClintock and Strong's Encyclopedia: "The churches of Asia Minor celebrated the death of the Lord on the day corresponding to the 14th of the month Nisan, on which day, according to the opinion of the whole ancient church, the crucifixion took place. The western churches (Rome), on the other hand, were of opinion that the crucifixion should be annually commemorated on the particular day of the week on which it occurred – i. e., Friday. "Thus far the controversy between the Asiatic (Greek) and the Western (Roman) churches had only concerned two points, viz.:

(1) whether the day of the week or the day of the month on which the death of Christ occurred should be commemorated; [NS78] (2) whether the fasting ought to be terminated. Now a third point in dispute arose, as to the day when the 14th of Nisan really occurred. Many of the church fathers are of the opinion that, according to the original calculation of the Jews up to the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, the 14th of Nisan had always been after the spring equinox, and that it was only in consequence of that miscalculation of the later Jews that the 14th of Nisan occasionally fell before the equinox. They therefore insisted that the 14th of Nisan, which for both parties within the church determined the time of Easter, should always be after the equinox.


"As the year of the Jews is a lunar year and the 14th of Nisan always a full-moon day, the Christians who adopted the above astronomical view, whenever the 14th of Nisan fell before the equinox would celebrate the death of Christ one month later than the Jewish Passover. As the Christians could now no longer rely on the Jewish calendar, they had to make their own calculations of the time of Easter. These calculations frequently differed, partly from reasons already set forth, and partly because the date of the equinox was fixed by some at the 18th of March, by others at the 19th, by others at the 21st of March. The Council of Arles in 314 endeavored to establish uniformity, but its decrees do not appear to have had great effect. The subject was, therefore, again discussed and acted upon by the Ecumenical Council of Nice, which decreed that Easter should be celebrated throughout the church after the equinox on the Friday following the 14th of Nisan. It was also provided that the Church of Alexandria, as being distinguished in astronomical science, should annually inform the Church of Rome on what day of the calendar the Ides of Easter should be celebrated, and the Church of Rome should notify all the churches of the world. But even these decrees of the Council of Nice did not put a stop to all the difference, and it was reserved to the calculation of Dionysius Exiguus to gradually introduce uniformity of practice into the old church. Some countries, like Great Britain, did not abandon their ancient practice until after a long resistance. At the time of Charlemagne uniformity (in observing Friday and in disregarding the Jewish reckoning of full-moon day) seems to have been established, and thereafter no trace is to be found (of the observance) of the quarto decimani (the celebration according to the actual day – the 14th of Nisan, the full moon after the spring equinox"). The same authority says of the Passover: "It was the representative (Jewish) festival of the year, and in this unique position it stood in a certain relation to circumcision as the second sacrament of the Hebrew church. (Exo. 12:44)

We may see this in what occurred at Gilgal, when Joshua, in reviewing the divine covenant, celebrated the Passover immediately after the circumcision of the people. But the nature of the relationship in which these two rites stood to each other did not become fully developed until its anti-types were fulfilled, and the Lord's Supper took its place as the sacramental feast of the elect people of God."


An additional significance to the memorial supper is pointed out by the Apostle Paul, who says: "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? For we, being many, are one bread (loaf) – one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread." 1 Cor. 10:16-17 The apostle, under the guidance of the holy Spirit, here sets before us an additional thought respecting this memorial instituted by our Lord. He does not deny, but affirms, that primarily the bread represents our Lord's broken body, sacrificed on our behalf; and that the cup represents His blood, which seals our pardon. But now, in addition, He shows that we, as members of the ecclesia, members of the body of Christ, the prospective First Borns, the New Creation, become participators with our Lord in His death, sharers in His sacrifice; and as He has elsewhere stated, it is a part of our covenant to "fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ." (Col 1:24)

The thought here is the same as that expressed by the words, "We are baptized into His death."

Thus, while the Lord's flesh was the loaf broken for the world, the believers of this gospel age, the faithful, the elect, the New Creation, are counted in as parts of that one loaf, "members of the body of Christ;" and hence, in the breaking of the loaf, after recognizing it as the sacrifice of the Lord on our behalf, we are to recognize it, further, as the breaking or sacrificing of the whole church of all those consecrated to be dead with Him, to be broken with Him, to share His sufferings. This is the exact thought contained in the word "communion" – common-union, common-participation. Hence, with every annual celebration of this memorial, we not only recognize the foundation of all our hopes as resting in the dear Redeemer's sacrifice for our sins, but we revive and renew our own consecration to "be dead with Him, that we may also live with Him" – to "suffer with Him, that we may also reign with Him" How grandly comprehensive is the meaning of this divinely instituted celebration. We are [NS79] not putting the symbols instead of the reality; nothing, surely could be further from our Lord's intention, nor further from propriety on our part. The heart-communion with Him, the heart-feeding upon Him, the heart-communion with the fellow-members of the body, and the heart-realization of the meaning of our covenant of sacrifice, is the real communion, which, if we are faithful, we will carry out day by day throughout the year – being daily broken with our Lord, and continually feeding upon His merit, growing strong in the Lord and in the power of His insight. What a blessing comes to us with the celebration of this memorial! What a burning of heart for further appreciation and growth in grace and knowledge, and for further participation in the privileges of the service to which we are called, not as respects the present, but also as respects the future! It will be noticed that the Lord includes the cup, for which we praise God. "Is it not the communion (common-union, common-participation) of the blood of Christ?" Oh, what a thought – that the truly consecrated, faithful "little flock" of the New Creation throughout this gospel age has been Christ in the flesh; and that the sufferings and trials and ignominy and death of those whom the Lord has accepted and recognized as "members of His body" in the flesh, are all counted in as parts of His sacrifice, because associated with and under Him who is our Head, our Chief Priest! Who that understands the situation, who that appreciates the invitation of God to membership in this Ecclesia, and the consequent participation in the sacrifice unto death now, and in the glorious work in the future, does not rejoice to be accounted worthy to suffer reproaches for the name of Christ, and to lay down his life in the service of the truth, as member of His flesh and of His bones. What matters it to these that the world knows us not even as it knew Him not! (1 John 3:1)

What matters it to these though they should lose the choicest of earthly blessing and advantages. "I count all things but loss and dross."

"I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us." (Philip. 3:8; Rom. 7:18)


Another thought is in respect to the mutual love, sympathy and interest which should prevail amongst all the members of this "one body" of the Lord. As the Lord's spirit comes more and more to rule in our hearts, it will cause us to rejoice in every occasion to do good unto all men as we have opportunity, but especially unto the household of faith. As our sympathies grow and go out to the whole world of mankind, they must grow especially toward the Lord, and, consequently, especially also toward those whom He recognized, who have His spirit, and who are seeking to walk in His footsteps. The apostle indicates that the measure of our love for the Lord will be indicated by our love for the brethren, the fellow-members of His body. If our love is to be such as will endure all things and bear all things in respect to others, how much more will this be true as respects those fellow-members of the same body, so closely united to us through our Head! No wonder the Apostle John declares that one of the prominent evidences of our having passed from death unto life is that we love the brethren. (1 John 2:14)

Indeed, we remember that in speaking of our filling up the measure of the afflictions of Christ, the Apostle Paul adds, "for His body's sake, which is the church." (Col 1:24)

The same thought is again expressed in the words, "We ought also to lay down our lives for the brethren." (1 John 2:16)

What a brotherhood is thus implied! Where else could we hope to find such love for the brethren as would lay down its life on their behalf. We are not now speaking of how the Lord may be pleased to apply the sacrifice of the church, represented in the "Lord's goat" as a part of the atonement day sacrifices. We merely, with the apostle, note the fact that, so far as we are concerned, the sacrifice, the laying down of life is to be done in the main "for the brethren" – in their service. The service for the world belongs mainly to the age to come, the millennium. Under present conditions, our time and talents and influences and means are, more or less, mortgaged to others (the wife or children or aged parents, or others depending on us), and we are obligated also to the provision of "things needful," "decent" and "honest in the sight of all men," for ourselves. Hence, we find comparatively little left at our disposal for sacrifice, comparatively little to lay down for the brethren, and this little the world, the flesh and the devil are continually attempting to claim from us, and to divert from the sacrificing to which we have consecrated it. The Lord's selection of the church, during this time when evil prevails, is to the intent that surrounding circumstances may prove the measure of the love and loyalty of each to Him and His. If our love be cool, the claims of the world, the flesh and the adversary will be too much for us, and attract our time, our influence, our money. On the other hand, in proportion as our love for the Lord is strong and warm, in that same proportion we will delight to sacrifice these to Him – not only to give our surplus of energy and influence and means, laying these down as we find opportunity in the service of the brethren, but, additionally, this [NS80] spirit of devotion to the Lord will prompt us to curtail within reasonable, economical limits the demands of the home and the family, and especially of self, that we may have the more to sacrifice upon the Lord's altar. As our Lord was for three and a half years breaking His body, and for three and a half years giving His blood, His life, and only finished these sacrifices at Calvary, so with us – the laying down of our lives for the brethren is in small affairs of service, either temporal or spiritual, the spiritual being the higher, and hence the more important – though he who would shut up his compassion toward a brother having temporal need would give evidence that he did not have the spirit of the Lord ruling in his heart in any proper degree.

April 11, 1904

Republished from The St. Paul Enterprise, July 24, 1917

(Pittsburgh Gazette, April 11, 1904)

Pastor C. T. Russell discourses on "Choosing the Better Part" in the Bible House chapel, Allegheny, yesterday. His text and discourse follow: "Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art anxious and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful, and Mary hath chosen that good part which shall not be taken away from her." Luke 10:41-42

Every day and every hour we are confronted with conflicting interests and propositions. We are continually making choice between these, either actively choosing or passively taking what we know will come if we refrain from action. The value of proper choice on these various propositions is but imperfectly understood and appreciated by the young. More and more as the years advance and we learn lessons of experience, we form what is called judgment; that is to say, we learn the importance of choosing rightly – that our future lives will depend much upon ourselves, upon the shape we will give them by accepting or rejecting good or bad impulses and opportunities. This has always been true to a considerable extent, but it is more true in our day than it ever was before, because we live in a time of larger opportunities than were at the disposal of our forefathers. Invention, machinery, the mail, the telegraph, the telephone, the printing press, multiply manifold our opportunities both for good and for evil, so that really our experiences and opportunities may be said to be at least seven-fold those of our forefathers. What a responsibility this places upon us – upon all men, and especially upon those who have been enlightened by divine truth and adopted into the family of God and commissioned to be ambassadors for God and to let their light so shine before men as to glorify the Father in heaven. The earliest illustration of opportunities missed is recorded in the Scriptures. Father Adam and Mother Eve in the Garden of Eden, under divine favor, had an opportunity to choose between life and death. True, the matter did not present itself to them in exactly this form – temptations usually take as attractive a form as possible. To Mother Eve it did not seem to be a choice between life everlasting and the death penalty, because she believed the serpent rather than God. God had said that disobedience to His command in eating the forbidden fruit would result in death, but the adversary contradicted the Lord and caused Mother Eve to believe that the Lord had selfish, sinister motives in connection with the command; that he feared that she and Adam would become as wise as himself if they partook of the fruit, and that the penalty of death attached to the act of disobedience was merely a threat to deter them from securing wisdom. Mother Eve made choice between believing God and believing Satan; she chose to believe the latter, and followed his suggestion to her subsequent sorrow.


Thus temptations come to us; we are allured to the choice of things that are evil by misrepresentation. Our first lesson, therefore, should be, Let God be true, [NS81] though in so doing all others be stamped as untrue. Mother Eve made a bad choice through her lack of faith in God. Let us not similarly err; let us have full confidence in our Creator – in His word, in His character, in His plan. The result will prove such a course a wise one, for this is choosing God rather than Satan. Choice or test next came to Father Adam, not through the serpent, but through his wife. The apostle assures us that Adam was not deceived. He knew perfectly that the death penalty which the Lord had attached to disobedience would surely be inflicted. Nevertheless he yielded to his wife and partook of the forbidden fruit; seeing that Eve had disobeyed, he reasoned unwisely that he must cast in his lot with her. Adam may be said to have practically committed suicide, though the poison of disobedience was a slow acting one. He made a great mistake, and chose a wrong course. He should have said to himself, my first responsibility is to my Creator, "to my Lord I will be true."

Adam should have trusted that the Lord would overrule and direct the matter in some way, so that His obedience would not bring an everlasting blight upon them, but in some manner work out a blessing in due time. We are confident that this would have been so – that he did not choose the good part, but the evil when he chose his wife's love and fellowship rather than that of his Creator. He lost heavily by this bad choice, and the effect of his error still exists in his race, as the apostle declares, "By one man's disobedience sin entered into the world and death as a result of sin, and so death passed upon all men for all are sinners." Rom. 5:12 This same choice of life and death is not upon all men since the fall because, as the apostle declared in the quotation just presented, we have shared in the penalty of Father Adam's disobedience. Choice terminated when the death sentence was pronounced. We never had perfect life except representatively in Adam. The world, therefore, is not called upon to choose between eternal life or eternal death, for all are born under the death sentence, "born in sin and shapened in iniquity, in sin did my mother conceive me."

Only a clear knowledge of the Redeemer and His work could justify from that sentence and such knowledge and faith few possess now. Only after such a justification from the original death penalty could one be on trial for life or death everlasting. Nevertheless, there are opportunities for choice of another kind continually presenting themselves to mankind. Almost all have learned that while the sentence of death is upon every member of Adam's family, it is nevertheless possible for us to either hasten the dying processes by a sinful course of life, or retard them by careful, abstemious endeavors toward righteousness. The world's choice, therefore, is between hastening down the broad road, giving loose rein to their passions, or on the other hand seeking to restrain these and to go down more slowly. What opportunities are open to the world every day and every hour! – we are not now speaking of the church, but of the world, of those on the "broad road" and not of those who have entered the straight gate into the "narrow way" that leads to life. Our exhortation to the world in general on the broad road, going down under Adam's sentence to death, is that they slow up, that they be more wise, that they exercise self-restraint, that they curb their passions, appetites, follies which they have inherited. We urge such moderation in the interests of the present life, in the interest of the example to others, in the interest of any children they may beget, whom they would carry with them to some extent with every step into degradation, mental, moral and physical.


After mankind had been about 2,000 years on "the broad road," the Lord made a proposition to Father Abraham which, in the Scriptures, is designated the primary statement of the gospel. It was but a vague statement and little understood by Abraham, even as an acorn, but imperfectly represents the oak whose possibilities are in it. The Lord intimated to Abraham that it was His intention in the future to bring a blessing upon the world of mankind – to give some relief or assistance to the children of Adam, who for 2,000 years then had been on the "broad road" with no hope of any kind extended toward them. God further intimated, that, if he would exercise faith and obedience, He would be pleased to use him and his posterity in connection with the proposed blessing of the race. Here was a choice – to continue in the way of his father, Terah, who is reputed to have been an idolatry, to have remained at the family homestead, following in line with the home arrangements, etc., or to leave the homestead and friends and, exercising faith in God's promise, to go into the land of Canaan, which at that time was a wilderness. Thus taking his stand with God, trusting in His promises of a future blessing, would mean to Abraham practically cutting himself off from friends and neighbors and relatives. Abraham chose the "good part;" he exercised faith in God and was obedient to the divine directions, and the apostle declares that thus he became heir of the promises. He might have chosen otherwise, in which event he would have had his portion with the remainder of the world, and the Lord, would have found some one else to execute His purpose. Abraham [NS82] made indeed a splendid choice, and his faith in God and in His promises was abundantly rewarded. However, as to whether or not he got a good reward depends upon the standpoint of observation. From the worldly standpoint he got nothing – he lived in the wilderness, had no son until nearly a hundred years of age, and later was tested in his faith as to whether or not he was willing to give up the son in whom the promises centered. The Scriptures declare that he was faithful in all these particulars, always choosing the good, the better part, and yet did not receive the blessings God promised him – for instance, the land of Canaan. He never owned it, as Stephen points out in his discourse (Acts 7:5); he never got so much as to set his foot upon it. The only portion that he ever owned was the cave of Machpelah, where he buried his wife Sarah; and that cave did not come as a gift from God, but was purchased for money. The Lord assures us that Abraham chose the good part and that although he did not receive the blessings promised to him in Canaan, this also is a portion of the greater blessing, for it means that he is to receive those blessings in the future – and this means his resurrection from death. We may be sure that eventually when, raised from the dead, Abraham receives the fulfillment of the gracious promises made to him, he will find them exceedingly abundantly greater and better than he could have asked or thought. (Heb. 11:38-40)

Abraham's good choice brought him some blessings during his earthly life, for even then he was known as the "friend of God" – even then he was privileged to have the peace of God passing all understanding ruling in his heart – he was privileged at all times to feel that the Lord was his God, his protector and his guide. He surely had much advantage every way over others not in covenant relationship with the Lord.


In due time Abraham's grandsons, Esau and Jacob, made a choice – the one a good choice and the other a bad one. We are familiar with the circumstances; the brothers were twins, but Esau, being born first, was, according to the divine arrangement of the time, the heir of the promise made to Abraham that in his seed all the families of the earth should be blessed. Esau set his heart more upon hunting and such things, and cared little that he had inherited a share in the great promise made to his grandfather, Abraham – cared little that by birth he was in the line of posterity through which the great blessing of God was ultimately to come to the world of mankind. Jacob, on the other hand, greatly respected that promise and greatly regretted that by the accident of a moment he was not the elder son, the first-born son of Isaac, to inherit the patriarchial blessing. Here was a case in which nature had thrust the favor upon one and equally deprived the other of that privilege. Nevertheless, in the Lord's providence a test came to both of these young men – a test of their faith in the divine promise and of their appreciation of the privileges which had come down to their family. The test came along the line of appetite. Both were hungry; Jacob had a mess of pottage, Esau coveted it, and by mutual agreement between the two the matter took the form of a test, the choice as between the pottage and the inheritance of the divine promise made to Abraham. Esau preferred the pottage and was willing to part with his interest in the promise, which he did not feel sure would ever be fulfilled anyway; Jacob, on the contrary, preferred the promise, in which he had full faith, and was willing, yea, glad to give the pottage for it. It was a fair transaction in that each one got what he preferred. In the Lord's estimation the faith of Jacob, leading to self-denial for the sake of a blessing and the inheritance of the promise was a good choice, such as he could approve. It proved that Jacob had faith, obedience and self-sacrifice which the Lord could approve, and it was on account of this that before their birth the results were so declared – the Lord wishing to show his foreknowledge respecting which would be the acceptable and which the unacceptable one in the line of the fulfillment of the promise. Similarly Esau demonstrated that he had not the faith and obedience and self-denial that would make him suitable to be the heir of the promise. Jacob chose "the good part," and it was not taken from him; but here again, as in Abraham's case, the good choice did not yield all of its fruitage in Jacob's lifetime. On the contrary, it brought him hardships, trials and difficulties. For the sake of that inheritance of a promise which has not yet been fulfilled – which was, therefore, purely a matter of faith – Jacob was obliged to forsake his father's house entirely, not only thus parting with the elder son's large share in the patrimony, but additionally he left in the hands of his brother the share of the younger son. He forsook all interest in his father's earthly estate that he might possess in full the Abrahamic blessing. Jacob chose that good part which was not taken from him – of which he is still an heir. He got none of the blessing in his day except the peace and joy and prospect, but he is an heir to certain promises of blessing in the future which he believed to be sure, and which we believe to be sure. When the due time shall come and Abraham shall be resurrected and receive his share in the promise, we may with equal [NS83] positiveness look for Isaac and Jacob to be joint inheritors with him in the things which God hath promised.


Coming down the stream of time we see Joseph in Egypt, and how in the Lord's providences testings came to him – how because of his faith his brethren hated him and sold him into slavery. We see, nevertheless, that instead of losing his faith in God he continued it and continued to seek to please the Lord. We find him in the house of Potiphar, one of the prominent officials of Egypt, as a servant; we find that he was faithful to the principles of righteousness and to the responsibilities of his relationship to his master. We see how this course of virtue apparently worked out greatly to his disadvantage temporarily, but that his faith in the Lord continued, and eventually we see under the Lord's providence his exaltation to the throne of Egypt. We perceive that he chose "that good part" and got a blessing, not a small part of which was the fact that he was made a type of the Lord Jesus, who after being tested in all points, has been highly exalted and is yet to be the great ruler upon the throne of the world, which Egypt's throne typified. Later on we see Moses tested. The choice came to him whether or not he would be associated with the rulers of Egypt, as one of its princes, and thus as one of the oppressors of Israel, his people, or whether he would renounce his adoption into the royal family and take his stand with the people of Israel, thus sharing their ignominy, sharing their persecution, and losing the pleasures of the court of Egypt and the honors and distinctions associated therewith. Moses' respect for God and for the promise made to Abraham led him to renounce the earthly favors and opportunities, and he was thus prepared to be the leader of Israel out of Egypt, and a type of the great Messiah who ultimately shall lead all who desire to serve and worship God out of Egyptian darkness and Egyptian bondage – out of sin and death into the liberty of the sons of God. Moses chose that good part also, and he, like the others, has not yet received the real blessing that God promised – he, too, awaits the millennial kingdom, through which all the blessings of God are to be bestowed and all the promises of God are to be fulfilled. Later on in Israel's history we note how their prophets made choice; as an illustration we hear the Prophet Elijah calling upon the people who had gone into idolatry, saying, "If Jehovah be God, serve Him; if Baal be God, serve him."

Elijah left no doubt as to what was his faith and his service. It meant for Elijah trials and difficulties in the present life, with joy and blessing in the Lord and confidence in His guiding hand; and it meant for him more still in the future, when all the faithful of the Lord shall receive reward at the inauguration of the millennial kingdom.


With our Lord's first advent changed conditions were obtained. No longer was it an opportunity to a few, who happened to be in the line of Abraham's posterity through Jacob, to merely hope for glorious privileges in the future; those privileges began to arrive with our Lord. Himself the first to walk in "the narrow way," as the captain or leader of all who would walk in his steps, our Lord made choice and chose the better part. "Before the world was" He was in glory and honor with the Father. Already He had been used of the Father as His special agent in the creation of angels and men, when the Father proposed to him that he should become man's Redeemer, at the expense of laying aside his glory as a spirit being, that he might become a human being and so be a suitable ransom for man's redemption – giving a perfect human life for the perfect human life Adam had forfeited by sin, thus redeeming Adam and incidentally redeeming all who had lost life through him. It was a choice – nothing is said in the Scriptures to indicate that it was in anywise compulsory for our Lord to decide as He did in this matter. So far we know, our Lord might have claimed that He had already kept the divine law and would always keep it, but that He did not choose to resign the spiritual conditions for the human and then to lay down life entirely as a sacrifice for men. So far as we discern the principles at stake, such a course would have brought no condemnation to the "only begotten one."

On the other hand, however, a reward was attached to the Father's proposition, and this reward was a sufficient incentive to our Lord Jesus, and He gladly and willingly undertook the work. The apostle speaks of this reward, saying of our Lord, "Who, for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, disregarding the shame and now set down at the right hand of the majesty on high." (Heb. 12:2)

The apostle does not particularize respecting this "joy," but we can readily imagine in what it chiefly consisted:

(1) He joyed or delighted to do the Father's will – he had confidence in the Father that obedience to Him, whatever it might cost would bring eventually pleasant and happifying results.

(2) Partaking of Father's spirit, He sympathized with mankind; and perceiving the Father's gracious plan, He joyed or rejoiced in cooperating with that plan for man's uplift out of sin and death during the millennial kingdom. [NS84] Our Lord's choice was evidently still left open to Him after He had humbled Himself and laid aside the glory which He had with the Father and became a man. It still devolved upon Him at 30 years of age, the age of perfect manhood to choose whether or not He would continue as a perfect man to exercise his rights and privileges and to live forever a protected life, such as He would have a right to as a perfect one under the terms of the law. "He that doeth these things shall live." (Rom. 10:5), or whether he would continue in the course on which He had already started to carry out the Father's plan and to become man's Redeemer, and incidentally to return to the heavenly conditions with exceeding glory. We find Him prompt in His decision. Immediately on reaching the age of 30 he presented himself to John for baptism, by that act witnessing his consecration unto death, in harmony with His Father's plan. His heart attitude is stated by the prophet, "I delight to do thy will, O my God; thy law is written in my heart."

For the three and a half years of His ministry, we see Him maintaining promptly, unalterably, this choice, and gradually laying down his life day by day, doing the will of Him that sent Him – His life, His vitality, going out continually to the relief of the sick whom He compassioned as part of the "groaning creation," for which He was dying. We perceive his fidelity to his choice at the cost of every earthly interest – "even unto death, even the death of the cross."

Did our Lord make a wise choice? Did He choose the better part? Or were His opportunities and life wasted, as many who saw Him and knew Him supposed? We answer that a life used in harmony with the divine invitation could not be wasted; the results were sure to be glorious and grand; and so the apostle testifies in our Lord's case. Personally he got a great reward; "him hath God highly exalted and given him a name, position, authority, above every name (next to the Father); that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue confess to the glory of God the Father. (Philip. 2:10-11)

Nor was this personal exaltation all of our Lord's reward – it was but the beginning of it. His millennial kingdom and its opportunities and privileges for returning mankind (redeemed by His death) to human perfection is still future. It is in this kingdom that He declared He would come as the Father's representative, with power and great glory, that as the foretold "seed of Abraham" He might accomplish the predicted blessing of "all the families of the earth" – the great uplift, social, moral, mental and physical of the groaning creation – the great trial, opportunity or test which must come to every man to prove whether under favorable conditions and full knowledge he would be obedient to God and thus worthy of eternal life, or disobedient and thus a proper subject of the second death. The rewards of our Redeemer's choice of "that good part" extend still further – beyond the millennial kingdom. That kingdom will come to an end when it shall have accomplished its designed purpose in the uplifting of mankind. Then, as the apostle particularly points out, Christ will "deliver up the kingdom to God even the Father" – (1 Cor. 15:24, 28) – that the restored race may thenceforth be accountable directly to the Father as the great King of the universe – without any intermediary or mediator. But the glory of our Lord and His privileges and service will not end there, for the Scriptures declare that a part of His reward was the divine nature, and association with the Father in His throne; not merely the throne of earth, of the millennial kingdom, which will end at the close of the thousand years – but association in the kingdom of the universe, an honor, dignity, etc., beyond our power to appreciate. Who can doubt that our dear Redeemer chose wisely the better part, and that its advantages will never be taken from him.


On the other hand, in contrast, the apostle holds up to our attention the opposite course of Satan, one of the chief angels, who attempted to make a choice which the Heavenly Father did not proffer to him, and this constituted rebellion – sin. Satan's ambition was aroused as he beheld our first parents, Adam and Eve, in Eden, and beheld that, although "a little lower than the angels" in glory and dignity, they possessed a power which the angels did not have – a procreative power, the ability to multiply their kind. Thinking of these as like the angels, among whom he had never seen death, Satan concluded that the capture of this first pair, the bringing of them under his control, would mean an enlargement of his influence, and that he could take these as a nucleus of power and reign as chief or god over the earth. In line with this was the original temptation presented to our first parents to lead them to disobedience to God and to cause them to think of Satan as their real benefactor. Although the project lost much of its attraction to Satan when the sentence of death came upon the race – when sin was followed by mental, moral and physical degeneracy, and sorrow and pain and death, and when Satan himself, because of disloyalty, was cut off from fellowship with the holy angels – nevertheless he has pursued much this same course with mankind ever since. For now 6,000 years he has endeavored to manifest himself as an angel of [NS85] light, and, on the contrary, has endeavored to picture the Almighty to men as an evil one. And he has succeeded to a large extent, as is witnessed by the misconceptions of deity among the heathen, and as well in the creeds of Christendom. Alas! How evil was the course, the choice of Satan! How pernicious was its effect upon himself and upon all associated with it! How terrible, how far-reaching are the baneful effects of sin! The Scriptures reveal to us that the matter has not yet ended – that eventually Satan shall be destroyed in the second death with all who wilfully and intelligently become followers of his evil course and who, therefore, are called his "angels" or servants.


The mass of mankind today, resting under the divine sentence of death, and blinded by the ignorance, superstition and misrepresentation which the god of this world, Satan, has brought upon them, are all, as the Scriptures express it, lying under "the Wicked One."

They are too depraved to make any choice, they see too indistinctly. God will not give them the great final choice for life or death under present conditions, seeing that their decision could only be injurious to themselves. He will defer their opportunities for choice until conditions are more favorable than now – until the millennial kingdom time – until the Sun of Righteousness shall have arisen and shall have chased away the "gross darkness that now covers the people with ignorance and superstition." (Isa. 60:2)

Then they shall have their choice of good or evil, life or death; not because God owes them such an opportunity, for He owes them nothing. The whole race was justly condemned to death because of Father Adam's transgression. The ground upon which God purposes to give them a future trial under favorable conditions is His grace, His mercy, His love, manifested in Jesus and the redemptive work which He accomplished – a "ransom for all to be testified in due time." 1 Tim. 2:6 In the meantime, before the appointed time for the kingdom and the world's trial for life or death, the Heavenly Father has caused a message to go forth, which, although open to Jew and Gentile, bond and free, all have not the "ears to hear," all have not the eyes to see."

The great mass of mankind are blinded and deaf so far as the message of this Gospel age is concerned. The apostle expresses the situation, saying: "The God of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not." (2 Cor. 4:4)

The assurance of the prophet is that the time draws near when "all the blind eyes shall be opened and all the deaf ears shall be unstopped."

But now to those who do hear even a little and who do see even a little of the grace of God in Christ and to whom righteousness, as they catch a glimpse of it, is attractive, the Lord holds out during this Gospel age a special privilege and call. It is the privilege of being justified by faith – of being counted of the Lord, not according to the weaknesses of the fallen conditions of the flesh, but according to the will or intention of the mind. This is the new covenant provision secured through the dear Redeemer's sacrifice of Himself on man's behalf. The call is (to such as thus hear and believe) to consecrate their lives to the Lord – to look unto Jesus, accept Him as their pattern and walk the "narrow way" in His footsteps. It is a choice, it is not compulsory, just as it was not compulsory in our dear Redeemer! But would it be profitable to follow Him, to walk in His steps? He forewarns all who would start that it will mean cross-bearing to be His disciples – that it will mean that the world will despise or hate them as it despised and hated Him; that the world will misunderstand them and say all manner of evil against them falsely, as it did against Him; that a man's foes shall be they of his own household, even as Judas betrayed Him. But He assures us also that "if we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him;" "if we die with Him, we shall also live with Him."

The terms of the proposition are so clear set forth that the Bible student who misreads them and concludes that it is an offer to be carried to the skies on flower beds of ease is inexcusable. The Master pointed out, also, that we need not expect many great or wise or learned, according to the course and estimation of this world, to be our companions in this "narrow way;" that they will chiefly be "the poor of this world, rich in faith, heirs of the kingdom," and altogether but a "little flock."


Throughout this Gospel age those who have heard the gospel message with more or less distinctiveness have opportunities for choosing between the service and rewards of God and Mammon. How are we choosing on this question? If as the apostle implies, this opportunity for choice was a great favor toward our Lord Jesus, if a great reward came to Him through obedience, how much more would it be wise for us who are "by nature children of wrath," overwhelmed in sin and its troubles, to accept the divine favor with the great glory, honor and immortality attached and the privilege of joint-heirship in the kingdom? What do we choose, dear brethren? I trust that you as well as myself have decided and will never change that decision – that we will follow the Lord "through evil report and through good report," and be faithful to Him and His cause and to His word and to His [NS86] brethren even unto death. This surely is a superlatively grand choice. We thus choose "that good part."

Having remarked that the acceptance of the gospel call is not compulsory, and that an avoidance of the narrow way" is not subject to a punishment of eternal torment nor even to the punishment of wilful sin, namely the second death – either to our Lord or us – it is proper that we point out that an acceptance of the gospel call changes matters completely. Thenceforth we are on trial, the result being unalterable, namely: Our consecration to walk the "narrow way" in our Lord's footsteps implied a good degree of knowledge, and our acceptance by the Lord, our adoption into His family of sons implied a further increase of knowledge in the school of Christ. Such favors and such knowledge, the apostle points out, bring responsibility and make the results momentous for life or death everlasting. His arguments are presented cogently in Heb. 6:4-8; 10:26-31. However, we are to remember that temptations and weaknesses cannot sweep such into second death, but only willful, deliberate sin against light and knowledge. Straying ones will receive "stripes" for their correction and recovery and only the willfully evil will be counted among the "wicked" whom the Lord declares shall be "destroyed" in the second death.


Our text refers to a choice between two good things, and intimates that those who are truly the Lord's may choose good or better. The thought of our text, therefore, seems to apply with special force to all those who have become sincerely the Lord's people. Martha chose a good part, she was indeed "not slothful in business, but fervent in spirit, serving the Lord," and in all this her course, so far from being subject to reproof was, we are sure, highly appreciated by the Lord. Our Lord's contrast as between the two sisters, and His giving of special approval to the course of Mary would probably not have been brought out had not Martha murmured against her sister, thinking her indifferent to the proper hospitality of the home. Our Lord, who appreciated both of the sisters, took the opportunity to show to Martha that while her course was certainly estimable and certainly appreciated, nevertheless the course of Mary was still more appreciated. Martha loved the Lord so that she wanted to do for Him; Mary loved the Lord and the things which the Lord loved and delighted to talk about, to such an extent that she could not forego the pleasure of His company and fellowship. Much as she would have liked to have joined with her sister in preparing an elaborate feast to His honor. Mary appreciated more than Martha the spiritual food which the Lord was dispensing, the kind of which He spoke to His disciples when, at the well near Samaria, they prayed Him saying, "Master, eat," and He answered, "I have meat to eat that ye know not of. It is my meat and my drink to do my Father's will," He declared again. As those who have already chosen the Lord, chosen the gracious promises, chosen the righteousness, and who thus choosing have rejected sin and Satan and the world and selfishness – to such there is a lesson in our Lord's words to Martha. Having thus chosen, the good in all these respects, we are to discern that from the Lord's standpoint there may be better and best as well as good. The lesson would seem to be that while endeavors in the Lord's service in temporal matters and in spiritual matters are right, are commendable, are appreciated by the Lord, there is at the same time something that the Lord may appreciate even more. He appreciates most all those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, those who "eat His words," those who "sit at His feet," those who delight in His glorious plan and rejoice in the radiance of its unfolding. Aside from the importance of choosing the right in all the affairs of life, and realizing that the slightest mistake may have a bearing upon all the subsequent affairs of our lives, the special lesson we would impress is that while activity in His service is a sign of our love for the Lord, a still higher mark of our esteem would be indicated in our fellowship with Him in prayer and in the study of His word. Mary did not spend all her time at the Lord's feet listening, but when a favorable opportunity of this kind came to her, it was not passed by. She chose it, she got it, she got a blessing with it, and was doubtless the better prepared for subsequent activities. So it should be with the Lord's people; they should not think that time taken for communion with the Lord and for study of His word is wasted time. On the contrary they should realize that to thus spend some time at the Master's feet, drinking in His word and His spirit, will be a preparation for them for the trials of the service, and for wiser activities in it, and that such a course will have His approval. Let us choose the best part, every way, the part most pleasing to our Lord.

Dear Lord, oh, let my life be so, – Its perfume when the tempests blow, The sweeter flow!

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