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PASTOR RUSSELL'S SERMONS

WHO MAY KNOW GOD'S SECRETS?
[SM5]

"None of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand."--Dan. 12:10.

In heathen lands as well as throughout Christendom secret societies include large proportions of the human family. Outsiders know something of their general motive and object, but their particular methods, hopes, endeavors, ambitions are kept secret. To effect this secrecy, to protect and conserve the interests of their association, obligations to profound secrecy are fastened and clinched with oaths, some of which are reputed to be almost blood-curdling, the endeavor being to fetter liberty of expression on such matters not only by the obligations of honor but also by those of fear. It is no part of my mission to attack any of these orders nor to inveigh against their procedures. I merely refer to them here; I merely call your attention to the fact that this is a common method amongst men which evidently has the sanction of many, because I wish to draw to your notice the fact that the Almighty God Himself is the

FOUNDER OF A SECRET SOCIETY

Moreover, while there are certain correspondencies between the human secret orders and the one of Divine origin, we shall find as we should expect that the latter is in every way superior to all others. Its aim and object are wider than all, embracing the entire human family, promising good, blessing and assistance to every member of the race--"in due time." (1 Tim. 2:6.) Again, although its methods of operation are secret, this is not because they are in any measure or degree sinful, disreputable, injurious or underhanded, but merely because secrecy is to the advantage not only of the members of the society; but also specially because present secrecy [SM6] as respects the work now being accomplished will be beneficial ultimately to the masses of mankind. This is in full harmony with the Divine statement. "As the Heavens are higher than the earth so are My methods higher than your methods and My thoughts higher than your thoughts."--Isa. 55:9.

As in some secret societies there are different steps or grades--for instance, all Masons are familiar with the secrets pertaining to the first degree yet not all Masons are familiar with the secrets, etc., pertaining to the thirty-second degree, so in God's Secret Order there are first principles of the doctrines of Christ which must be known to all who belong to the order, and are also "deep things of God," which may be known only to those who have made advancement by growth in grace and knowledge and love. (Heb. 6:1; 1 Cor. 2:10.) To some unfamiliar with the facts but having a knowledge of earthly secret societies it may seem strange to say that the secrets of the Divine Order of the Sons of God are so abstract, so impenetrable, that they may be discussed freely in the presence of others and not be comprehended at all. Indeed, so far from laying restrictions upon the members of this Order not to communicate its secrets they are authorized, yea, urged to make these known to all who may be able to comprehend, understand them, with many assurances that only the right class will be able to comprehend. Our text is one of these assurances, "None of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand." Another assurance is, "The natural man receiveth [understandeth] not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned"; and again, "The secret of the Lord is with them that reverence Him, and He will show them His covenant." (1 Cor. 2:14; Psa. 25:14.) The only restrictions in respect to the telling of the secrets of this Order of the Melchizedek Priesthood are, "Cast not that which is holy before dogs," "Cast not your pearls before swine, [SM7] lest they turn again and injure you." (Matt. 7:6.) These secrets would be injurious to them; and, misunderstanding them, the swinish, the groveling, might be incited to violence through disappointment, recognizing no value in pearls nor appreciating anything that would not give earthly satisfaction.

THE FOUNDING OF THIS ORDER

The Scriptures assure us that our Creator purposed the founding of this Order of the Melchizedek Priesthood before the foundation of the world. In due time Melchizedek, a kingly priest, constituted its type in the days of Abraham--and then, too, a preparatory or Junior Order was inaugurated, Abraham being chosen of the Lord as its Grand Master. To him the whole secret of the Order was communicated in few words saying, "In thee and in thy Seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." The meaning of this was but partially grasped by Abraham himself and all of his posterity, the Jewish nation, who with him became members of that Junior Order during a period of two thousand years. They understood this to signify that at some time Messiah would come and establish a new order of things with the result that Abraham's posterity in particular and the nations of mankind in general would receive through Him a great blessing.

These hopes of the Junior Order proved very encouraging and helpful to such of them as properly entered into the spirit and designs of the Order and sought to appropriate the blessings and privileges of Divine relationship thus accorded them. In proportion as by faith they entered into this Order they took degrees of knowledge and of love and had more of the Divine approval. But as for the other nations of the world they were not admitted in any sense of the word to this Order. It was exclusively for Abraham and the Jews; and all others were strangers, aliens and foreigners from the Commonwealth of Israel, without God and having no hope. [SM8]

It was at our Lord's First Advent, or more particularly at Pentecost following His redemptive work and ascension to the presence of the Father, there to appear on our behalf, as our Advocate, that the present Order of the Melchizedek Priesthood was organized--"the Church of the Living God, whose names are written in Heaven." (Heb. 12:23.) It is not an earthly organization, but a Heavenly one, and hence properly it is not composed of those whose names have been written on earth, but those whose names have been written in the Lamb's Book of Life. The earthly organization, called by various names, represents many misunderstandings of the Divine arrangement and unintentionally does violence to principles of the Order; and, whereas these sectarian lines separate some of the true members of the Melchizedek Priesthood, they also receive as members many whose names are not written in Heaven, many who have not the credentials of the true Order, who do not understand its secrets, because they have not been properly initiated by the Holy Spirit.

You will understand, therefore, dear friends, that in our view of the matter the division of the Church of Christ into various bands and companies under various banners--Wesley's, Calvin's, Luther's, the popes', etc., --represent so many mistaken ideas, represent so much of confusion and misunderstanding and bewilderment and contention and error. These organizations are not only not necessary but wrong, in that they tend to distract and divide the true members of the Divine Order who should know each other not by outward badges and names but by their acquaintance with the Lord and with His secret, which is with all those who fear Him.

The first principles of the doctrine of Christ should enable any of these who are truly the Lord's, to make themselves known and well acquainted with others without any earthly introduction or distinguishing name. Indeed, all these do know each other when they meet; but [SM9] the Adversary's effort has been to keep them apart and thus if possible to hinder the progress and growth of the Divine Order. But he has not really hindered it; instead, his methods have merely assisted in making the Order the more secret and unknown to the world, including those merely nominal Christians, not spirit-begotten. So great has been the deception that the Lord Jesus, the grand and everlasting Head and Master of this Order of the Melchizedek Priesthood, was crucified by some who belonged to the Junior Order and who were in one sense earnestly waiting for the establishment of the new Order and for an opportunity to enter it! They were not permitted to enter because they were unworthy--except the few of whom we read (John 1:11,12): "He came unto His own and His own received Him not; but to so many as received Him, to them gave He liberty to become the sons of God"--to join the Order of Spiritual Sons, the Melchizedek Order of Priesthood.

"THE WORLD KNOWETH US NOT"

Similarly all down through the Gospel Age there has been an outward Church of God and a true, the inward one. The world has seen the outward one, but not the inward. It has applauded and reprimanded the outward, but has uniformly disallowed the true and considered its members to be merely foolish. Thus the Apostle Paul assures us that himself and others, zealous in the service of the Lord and doing the work of this higher Priesthood, were counted fools all the day long for Christ's sake (1 Cor. 4:10); and St. John says, "The world knoweth us not, even as it knew Him not." (1 John 3:1.) Similarly all who live godly in Christ Jesus have, as the Apostle advised, suffered more or less of persecution and ignominy because they were not recognized of the world--so impenetrable are the secrets of this Order and its message that others cannot know them. Nevertheless, the Order has been growing, increasing, and its fixed or limited [SM10] membership will soon be completed. Then no further additions will be accepted.

Let it be understood clearly that membership in this Order does not mean injury to those who are not members of it, but contrariwise it means ultimately a blessing to come to them all through the Melchizedek Priesthood, as it is written of this spiritual Seed of Abraham, of which Christ is the Head and the Church the Body, "In thy Seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." (Gal. 3:29.) The selection of the members of the Order is accomplished under present conditions because they must all become over-comers, willing and able to count it all joy to be in tribulation and to suffer loss for the sake of the Order its interests, its present workings and membership and its future work. Whoever is not willing to suffer for the cause is counted unworthy to be a member --in a word, every member of the Melchizedek Priesthood must sacrifice his life in the interest of the Order, in support of its glorious Lord and Head and His teachings and in serving in general the interests of the Order and its members--"We ought also to lay down our lives for the brethren." It will thus be seen that the gateway into this Order is a very narrow one and the pathway of membership in it a very narrow one--"Strait is the gate and narrow [difficult] the way, that leadeth unto life," the special immortality and associated glory which God has provided as the eternal portion of this elect Melchizedek Priesthood.--Matt. 7:14; 1 John 3:16.

BONDAGE AND LAWS OF THE ORDER

Briefly I might say that in one sense every member of the Order is in bondage, and that in another sense every member is free. Let me explain this strange expression. Each is free to leave the Order, renounce it, denounce it and count the precious blood wherewith he was sanctified a common thing and to despite the spirit of favor which initiated him into this Order. In doing so he incurs no [SM11] threat of eternal torture. He merely brings himself under death sentence, similar to the one under which he was before he was reached with the grace of God through the precious blood, excepting that it means the Second Death, from which there is no remedy, no ransom, no recovery by resurrection or otherwise--an eternal death similar to that experienced by the entire brute creation. While, therefore, each member of this Royal Priesthood is at liberty to go back to wallowing in the mire, like the sow that was washed, yet if he choose to remain he is also at liberty to follow this course--none shall be able to pluck him out of his Father's hand nor to separate him from this grace.--John 10:29; Rom. 8:38,39.

However, as already stated, those who abide in Christ, who abide in this new Order of the Royal Priesthood, can have its blessings and privileges fully only upon the most exacting terms and conditions; namely, their full surrender to the Law of the Order so far as their intentions are concerned. "Ah!" I hear you say, "the laws of that Order must be very voluminous. Doubtless many volumes of Divine statutes and regulations would need to be studied by the members of this Royal Priesthood." We answer, No! The entire law of the Order is briefly comprehended in one word--Love. It is demanded and required of every member of the Order that love shall be the test, not only of his deeds, but also of his words--yea, of his thoughts. Love is the fulfilling of the Law.

True, those initiated into this Order are persons of like passions with ourselves, as the Apostle said. (Acts 14:15.) Some of them naturally are more fallen than others, and have less of love and more of selfishness than others; but all who join the Order are required to make resolution in their hearts as respects this law of Love-- and all the internal workings of the Order are with a view to the perfecting of its members in love. They must learn to love the great Founder of the Order supremely, and in turn to trust to His Love as well as to His Wisdom [SM12] and Power, so that in obedience to His will they consecrate to spend time, talent and influence, yea, all that they possess, in His service.

Secondly, He admonishes that to love those who love them is not the test which He will apply; but that they will be expected to sympathetically love all mankind, to do good to all men as they have opportunity, especially the Household of Faith. (Gal. 6:10.) It is required of them that they shall especially love the brethren, the members of the Order, and be ready and glad to lay down their lives for the brethren. Tests along this line are continually necessary to weed out of the Order all who are not approximating its standard of Love Divine, that all delinquents may be cast into the outer darkness, in which the whole world is, and have share with the world in its tribulations present, and especially in those which will come upon it in the closing of this Age and the inauguration of the new one, when the Melchizedek Order of Priests shall take possession of the empire of earth for its blessing and uplifting. It will be seen, then, that the statement that love is the bond of perfectness with this Royal Priesthood has a deep significance. The members of this Order need not be constrained by oaths of allegiance one toward another, as they have a stronger bond by far, the bond of love--and if any man have not this spirit of Christ he is none of His.--Rom. 8:9.

THE WICKED SHALL NOT UNDERSTAND

It is at times really amazing to note how the unconsecrated mind, attempting to understand the Mystery of God, designed only for the members of this Order, falls into such egregious blunders and makes such peculiar misstatements respecting what we endeavor to set forth as plainly and as consistently as our abilities will permit. Nor need we think that the fault is ours, since we find that the words of our Lord Himself and of His inspired Apostles were similarly misunderstood, and that they have explained to us that God hides these things from [SM13] others than His devoted ones. Mark our Lord Jesus' words in His prayer, "I thank Thee, Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, because Thou hast hidden these things from the wise and prudent and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight."--Matt. 11:25,26.

But how absurd it would be to think that our Lord would thank the Father for hiding things from any, if we were to associate with that thought the one which the world and the nominal Christian associate with it; namely, that all from whom God thus hides these special things or secrets of the Lord are in consequence appointed to an eternity of torture! What a travesty it would be upon Divine Love and Justice and upon the character of the Father and our Redeemer! But this is not the thought. None of the wicked understand, because for them to understand would not only mean a greater measure of condemnation upon them but would also mean an endeavor on their part to oppose and circumvent the Divine arrangement.

As for the worldly-wise they may not understand; for not many great, not many wise, not many learned are chosen of the Lord as worthy of membership in this secret Order of Melchizedek. He explains to us elsewhere the reason for this; namely, that He is seeking only the meek, the humble-minded, those who will be willing to learn of Him, and to have their minds transformed and conformed to the pattern most pleasing to the Lord. This, under present conditions, is impossible to the worldly-wise, who feel their own superiority, etc., and seek not the wisdom that cometh from Above and the Divine approval. In a word, then, our Lord's testimony shows us that the wise who will understand the things of God and be initiated into the mysteries of the kingdom of the Melchizedek Priesthood are not the worldly-wise or great--with few exceptions. They are chiefly the poor of this world, rich in faith, who shall be heirs of the Kingdom [SM14] which God has promised and for which we still pray, "Thy Kingdom come."--James 2:5; Luke 11:2.

This is another reason why the world knoweth us not even as it knew Him not. Had our Lord been one of the worldly great and bright, haughty and domineering, wealthy and influential, yet possessed of His talents and powers, no doubt the very ones who crucified Him would have hailed Him King. It was His humility, His poverty, etc., that led to His rejection and His crucifixion as a false prophet. Much the same is true of all of His followers who are members of this Royal Priesthood Order. And they are to be content with such a rejection by the world--content because of their realization of acceptance with the Father and with the Grand Master; content with the assurances granted in the Scriptures and confirmed by the Holy Spirit in their experience. They are to wait patiently and the better to cultivate under these conditions the fruits and graces of the Holy Spirit.

THE ORDER'S ULTIMATE PURPOSES

We are not hindered from telling the ultimate purposes of this grand Secret Order which our Lord organized and of which, I trust, many of you are members through faith in and consecration to the Lord. We may tell of these mysteries, knowing that none of you will be able to appreciate or thoroughly to comprehend all of these mysteries except such of you as have taken several degrees in the Order, passing from grace to grace and from knowledge to knowledge. We remind you here of the Master's words when approached by the disciples who asked, "Lord, why speakest Thou unto the people in parables?" Jesus answered and said unto them, "To you it is given to know of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God, but unto all outsiders these things are spoken in parables and in dark sayings, that hearing they might hear and not understand." (Luke 8:10.) To our understanding the total number of members in this Order of the Melchizedek Priesthood will be 144,001, the one being [SM15] our Grand Master and Lord and Redeemer, the others being those of whom He says,"All ye are brethren," and of whom the Apostle declares they are members in particular of the Body of Christ, the Church of the Firstborns, whose names are written in Heaven. (Heb. 12:23.) Under another figure our Lord is spoken of as a Bridegroom, and these 144,000, now espoused to Him, covenanted to Him, are ultimately to be united to Him as His Bride, to become the Lamb's Wife and associates in His Throne and work of the future.--Rev. 21:9.

With the completion of this elect class, all shaped and polished as the Lord's Jewels by present trials, difficulties, etc., etc., the time will have come for the inauguration of the work of this Royal Priesthood. The Kingdom class will then all be in glory--Jesus their Head glorified nineteen centuries ago, the Church His Body glorified with Him by a share in His kind of resurrection, at His Second Coming. Then the Law shall go forth and the Word of the Lord; then Satan shall be bound; then every evil thing shall be plucked up by the root! What a turmoil this will mean at the beginning may be better imagined than described. But so far as the uprooting and upturning is concerned, the Lord has a peculiar way of accomplishing this; namely, by simply allowing present institutions to "run amuck," to overthrow themselves, to develop anarchy which will sweep the world as with a besom of destruction and produce a Time of Trouble such as never was since there was a nation! It will be at the conclusion of this period of awful anarchy toward which the world is now heading rapidly and from which it cannot be held back by human wisdom and prudence because selfishness has blinded the minds of the masses. The Scriptures tell us that when that plowshare of trouble shall have passed through the world and finally the new Order of things shall have developed, the poor world will begin to have saner ideas in respect to life, justice and righteousness; and we read that many nations shall [SM16] then say, "Come let us go up to the Kingdom of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we shall walk in His path." (Micah 4:2); and again, "The desire of all nations shall come." All nations will by that time be so thoroughly weary with the awful trouble that they will be glad to welcome the Reign of Righteousness then due to be inaugurated.

The reforms of that time will be thorough-going. Justice will be laid to the line and righteousness to the plummet, and the lies will all have been swept away, Satan shall be bound for a thousand years, his deceptions shall cease, and instead the light of the knowledge of the glory of God shall fill the whole earth. (Isa. 28:17; Hab. 2:14.) When thus the judgments of the Lord shall be abroad in the earth (rewards for well doing and stripes or punishment for evil doing), the inhabitants of the world shall learn righteousness. Then the wilful, persistent evil-doer shall be cut off in the Second Death.

Ultimately the blessing of the Lord through this Melchizedek Priesthood shall accomplish all that its Divine Founder outlined in the first statement of the good news to Abraham, namely, "In thy Seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." As a result we read that every knee shall bow and every tongue confess to the glory of God, and that Christ shall reign until He shall have put down every opposition and evil, the last enemy that shall be destroyed being death. (Isa. 45:23; 1 Cor. 15:25,26.) The whole world shall thus be uplifted from the power of sin and death, and be brought back to allegiance to the Heavenly Father. And then, saith the Scriptures, The Christ, the Melchizedek Priesthood, shall deliver up the Kingdom to God even the Father, that He may be all in all. (1 Cor. 15:28.) However, the Scriptures clearly indicate elsewhere that the great honor of God upon Christ, His beloved Son, and upon the Church, the Bride of Christ, will be an everlasting honor; but the details of the Father's purposes for the Church are still [SM17] held as an unrevealed mystery, even to those who have the secret of the Lord and to whom He has shown the signification of His Covenant made to Abraham respecting the blessing of all the families of the earth.

In conclusion, dear friends, I exhort that we who have become members of this Secret Order of the Lord, including also those who under the leadings of the Lord's Spirit, may yet become members of it, shall appreciate more and more fully its wonderful privileges and gladly conform more and more to its requirements, that we may thus make our calling and election sure to the glorious fruition of our hopes in the Kingdom of God and its gracious work under the whole heavens! We shall best do this by studying our Manual, which our Lord has given us, His Word, and by developing the various fruits and graces of the Spirit, all of which are elements of the one general law of our Order, namely, love to God and to our fellows. I remind you of St. Peter's words, "If ye do these things ye shall never fall; for so an entrance shall be administered unto you abundantly into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."-- 2 Pet. 1:10,11; Psa. 119:97-104.


"A little while;" with patience, Lord,
I fain would ask, "How long?"
For how can I, with such a hope
Of glory and of Home,
With such a joy awaiting me,
Not wish the hour were come?
How can I keep the longing back,
And how suppress the groan?
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