this is txt file this is txt file
Convention Report Sermons
Words of Greeting
I WANT to give my word of greeting this morning, dear friends, to let you know that I have arrived and that I hope you are enjoying yourselves at this Convention. I believe the Lord has blessings for His people whenever they meet in Jesus' name, and with a desire to know His divine will. I trust our joy will be added to because of this convention, and that in going from here we will bear a song away, one that will not die in our hearts, but will bring cheer and blessing to our homes whither we go.
I am not intending to detain you very long this morning, but this may be one of the few opportunities of saying a few words, and the text that occurs to me on this occasion is the Master's words:
"Woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.
Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.
I do not know, my dear friends, how many of you may be rich and come under that classification; nor how many of you may come under the Master's classification, "Ye poor," but we do believe that there is a wisdom in the Master's words that is not to be found elsewhere, and what I am about to say is not anything intended to stir up class strife or hatred--by no means--but rather that all true peace and true blessings come in harmony with obeying the Master's words, and that all the difficulty, and strife, and disorder of the world comes through neglect of these very words of Jesus.
When speaking of the "rich" we are to have in mind those the Master had in mind, not only those who are rich in a financial sense, wealthy, but that He includes also those who are rich in the honors of men, rich in education or in any particular sense of special privileges, advantages and opportunities.
Although not rich myself, I can sympathize with the rich in their position, as well as with the poor in theirs. God, Himself very rich, is able to sympathize with both the poor and the rich; so is the Savior, who, being rich, for our sakes became poor, that we through His poverty might become rich in the truest sense of that word.
Some of God's faithful servants in the past were very rich--Abraham, for instance. Nevertheless, the Lord forewarned us that not many rich, great, learned, or mighty would receive the highest blessing promised during this Age. On the contrary, recipients of the greatest favor will be chiefly the poor of this world, rich in faith. These will be the heirs of the Kingdom. [CR423]
The Master evidently intended to include riches of every kind--learning, influence, honor of men, etc., as well as financial wealth. This view broadens the text to signify that all who now possess great privileges and blessings above the average of mankind will by these blessings, be more or less hindered from obtaining the best things of God's favor, and more or less subject to woes.
We are not to take the views of the darker days, and to suppose that the Master meant that the rich at death would be thrown into everlasting torture. The woes of the Bible, on the contrary, apply to the present life. The rich, the influential, the learned, the great, addressed by the Master in the words of our text, were living in the close of the Jewish Age, but realized it not. And we might have no occasion whatever to apply our text today, but might consider it as already fulfilled in the past, except for the fact that the Jewish nation and its experiences at that time typified the Gospel Church and the experiences of Christendom in our day.
WRATH TO THE UTTERMOST UPON THE JEWS.
St. Paul, referring to the same woes which Jesus predicted but living near the close of the Jewish Age, when the woes were being poured out, declared, Wrath has come upon this people to the uttermost--that all things written in the Law and the Prophets concerning them should be fulfilled. (1 Thes. 2:16.) If all the woes purposed of God upon the Israelites in the conclusion of their Age were fulfilled, as St. Paul declares, then none of those woes belong to the future.
That woes and tribulations are associated with the present life for both the rich and the poor is undebatable. All acknowledge these woes. But the most terrible foreboding are associated with imaginary woes of the future life--quite contrary to the Scripture teachings. If we must speak of tribulations in the present life, in order to be faithful to our commission, we are glad to be able to set aside and nullify the nightmare of the Dark Ages respecting eternal torment for any.
The Jews, whom Jesus addressed, He declared "knew not the time of their visitation." They realized not that they were living in the end of their Age, and that a great settlement of matters was about to take place. Similarly, we are now living in the end of this Gospel Age--another great settlement day in the Divine arrangement. The intellectually, politically, socially and financially rich at that time, addressed by our Lord, were very self-satisfied, very prosperous, and looked for the Messianic Kingdom in an opposite direction from that which Jesus taught. So today, the intellectual and the rich in various ways are satisfied as never before, and merely wishing that nothing might disturb their wonderful progress for the future, and these are looking for their blessings and prosperity in a direction the reverse of that indicated by the Word of God.
Jesus prophetically foreknew and foretold the crisis of the Jewish nation. His Message gathered out of that nation the "Israelites indeed, in whom was no guile." Then the nation was given over to itself. The Divine Hand which had guided it safely in the past let go the rudder; and human passion accomplished the wreck in the anarchy which overthrew the nation in A.D. 70. Similarly, we may understand that now has come the Harvest of this Gospel Age; that now God is gathering His elect; and that as soon as this work shall have been accomplished, the Almighty's Hand which has held in check the powers of human passion until now will release its hold.
Then mankind, left to themselves, will wreck their present civilization. As the rich of Jesus' day suffered most keenly in their time of trouble, so the rich will suffer most keenly in the time of trouble now near. Thank God, however, that these woes, both upon the Jews and upon Christendom today, are not woes of eternal torment!
COMPENSATION IN NATURE.
Who has not been struck with Nature's compensations? The rich, the learned, the favored, have trials and difficulties, perplexities, cares, doubts and fears, which the poor, the unlearned, know nothing about. The clerk, the mechanic and the laborer may finish their toil under certain hours and be care free, while the employer often faces perplexing problems which hinder sleep and undermine health.
In matters of grace the same rule to some extent, prevails. The rich have more on which to set their hearts, more to occupy their time, more to cultivate self-will, more opportunity for self-gratification, more riches for which to be responsible, more education by which, under present conditions, errors are more likely to influence, have more to divert them and to cultivate their pride. The naturally noble, contrasting themselves with their inferior neighbors, are inclined to resent the idea that they are sinners, and as much dependent upon the Lord's grace as the humblest and the meanest of their fellows.
NO PARTIALITY WITH GOD.
We are not to understand that God is partial to the poor, the mean, the illiterate, the ignoble. The Scriptures assure us that God is impartial. All other conditions being equal, riches, honor, nobility of character, would make the possessors more esteemed in God's sight. But other conditions are not equal. During this Age God is choosing a special class. He puts faith first, then meekness, gentleness, patience, brotherly kindness and love in their order.
Apparently the life experiences of the poor and ignoble are as favorable, or more so, than the conditions of the rich and the talented. All of their experiences tend to develop faith, while those of the rich tend rather to develop self-reliance, self-assurance. The experiences of the poor and ignorant tend to develop meekness, teachableness, whereas the experiences of the learned tend naturally toward self-conceit. The experiences of the great in dealing with subordinates tend to beget arrogance and self-assurance; whereas if they become disciples of Christ, those qualities are serious handicaps and interferences. Thus we see why not many rich, wise, great and noble are amongst those upon whom the Gospel Message takes serious effect. Not only have the poor many advantages in respect to hearing and obtaining the Gospel Message, but their being more numerous than the rich would be another reason why they would predominate among the Lord's elect-class.
NOT ALL POOR ARE BLESSED.
Our text, however, does not refer to poor people in general, but to a special class of poor. "Blessed be ye poor; for yours is the Kingdom of God." Some poor, instead of being drawn to God by their poverty, cultivate a spirit of anger, malice, hatred, strife, and are thus not only embittered in spirit, but have their faces turned in the opposite direction from the one in which God's blessings come. Alas, how true this is today.
The class described by Jesus as "ye poor" is composed of those who are hungering after righteousness, and who have approached the Fountain of Blessing, the Almighty, and have been received as children of God. The poor include all of God's people, whether or not poor as respects earthly goods, earthly honor, fame, etc. Whatever earthly blessings they may have had, they gave up, sacrificed, that they might thereby become heirs of God, joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. Of the Redeemer it is written, "He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor." As the Master made a full surrender of His will and talents, and all, so also must all who, hearing the Master's voice, become His disciples, or footstep followers.--2 Cor. 8:9; Matt. 16:24.
This does not mean that the Lord's people must of necessity throw away or give away their property and become penniless. It does mean, however, that whatever property they once called their own, by the terms of their consecration became the Lord's property, and they merely His stewards in the administration of that property and the use of it in harmony with the Lord's will.
Neither does this mean that, if they had riches of learning, they must ignore their knowledge and speak and act ignorantly. It means, however, that their learning is no longer theirs, but the Lord's. It is no longer to be used for self-gratification, self-honor, self-praise, but to be used in the service of their Redeemer, to show forth His praises no matter how unpopular His cause in the sight of men--no matter how foolish it may cause them to appear in the eyes of those who are blinded to the Lord's arrangements.
This poverty and sacrifice does not mean the giving up of noble sentiments and high ideals; but it means the bringing of these ideals, etc., into the Lord's service, for the support and advancement of His Message of Truth, for the blessing of mankind along the lines which His Word indicates.
This sacrifice, or surrender, does not mean that honor of men will be disesteemed thereafter; for it will always be true that "a good name is rather to be chosen than great [CR424] riches." It means that worldly reputation will be held secondary to the Lord, the Truth, and service for the Lord's cause, so that whatever honor of men they may possess will be turned as wisely and as prudently as possible into the channels which will glorify the Lord and honor His Message, regardless of the fact that so using it will gradually consume it; for the world knows not the followers of Jesus, even as it knew Him not, and appreciates not the true honor which cometh from Above but merely the honor which is of men.
WORLDLY WISDOM VS. HEAVENLY WISDOM.
The Scriptures distinctly point out that there are two kinds of wisdom, radically opposed to each other--the earthly wisdom and the Heavenly Wisdom. The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God, and the Wisdom of God is foolishness with this world. This means that there are two different ways of viewing nearly everything. The world's viewpoint ignores the future beyond the grave, lives for the present, thinks for the present, strives for the present. The Heavenly Wisdom looks chiefly beyond the grave, for that eternal condition which God declares may be attained by all obedient to Him. From this viewpoint the things of the present are temporary, transitory, fickle, uncertain, in comparison with the future blessings. St. Paul declares of these that they are not worthy to be compared with the future glory to be revealed in the Lord's people (Romans 8:18).
Those who follow the earthly wisdom are subject to the frailties and imperfections of the human mind with which they were born--born in sin, misshapen in iniquity. "In sin did my mother conceive me." More than this, they are to a large degree susceptible to the evil influence of Satan and the fallen angels, and the "doctrines of demons" with which these seek to ensnare and mislead all who have not put themselves under Divine protection by becoming disciples of Jesus. This includes the great majority of humanity, of whom the Apostle declares that the god of this world hath blinded the minds of all those who believe not, lest the glorious light of God's goodness, shining in the face of Jesus Christ, should shine into their hearts (2 Cor. 4:4).
Of these again the Scriptures declare, "The whole world lieth in the Wicked One." Not intentionally and knowingly, but ignorantly, through depravity and deception, they are servants of sin. Their only hope lies in the promise of God that eventually the time will come when Messiah shall take His great power, exalt His Church, and institute a rule of righteousness in the world, which will bind Satan and break the shackles of ignorance and superstition, and bring in a clear knowledge of God and the Truth.
Meantime, many in the world are considerably swayed by the spirit of Satan--anger, malice, hatred, envy, strife. When circumstances are favorable, these evil qualities are not brought into activity; but under other circumstances, no evil work is too vile, if it will minister to their selfish propensities. Thus today we see people not naturally bad, in the sense of preferring evil to good, but deluded and without Divine guidance, and thus ready to do anything and everything, under stress of necessity, for the maintenance of the present order of things. Not knowing of God's Plan, and not having the Wisdom from on High, they are not waiting for Messiah's Kingdom, but are bent upon attaining their own ends, in harmony with their own theories.
According to the Bible testimony, these are the ones who are about to bring upon the world the great time of trouble, the like of which never was since there was a nation (Dan. 12:1). In that great time of trouble the worldly rich will have fulfilled upon them our Lord's words in our text, in accord also with the words of St. James, "Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you" (James 5:1). Miseries will also come upon the poor, but will be felt especially by the rich, because of the wealth, luxury and comfort previously enjoyed by them.
On the contrary, the poor in spirit--those who have given their little all to the Lord, and have nothing to lose further--can look with equanimity upon any experience which may come to them. Having nothing of their own, they can lose nothing. "Blessed be ye poor; for yours is the Kingdom of God," and as inheritors of that promise they are rich with the wealth which moth and rust cannot corrupt and which thieves cannot destroy or steal.
The whole matter, then, is one of wisdom. Shall we give our affairs into the hands of the Lord and allow Him to work out our best interests for us and to give us His very best blessing? Or shall we seek to hold control of ourselves and of our own wills, and thus miss the greatest blessing that God has to give, and obtain the inferior one? Or by wilfully choosing sin, shall we deliberately reject everlasting life, and come under the penalty of the Second Death --Destruction?
The Kingdom of God
OUR subject, dear friends, is "The Kingdom of God." We ask you to go back in your minds to the very beginning of God's dealings with our race in the Garden of Eden, and there we see God established His Kingdom. God's Kingdom is a Kingdom of righteousness, and with the righteousness of God always goes divine blessings. So when God created our first parents He made them His representatives in the world, even as the Scriptures inform us. We read in Psalm 8 "Thou has made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet."
It was a small Kingdom, in one sense; only two human beings, namely, the king and queen, all other creatures being inferior. The Divine intention respecting this Kingdom was that it should spread and fill the whole earth, and that every member of the race should be a king. So God said to the first pair, "Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it." That is to say, the Garden of Eden only had been subdued; only that Garden was in proper condition for the comfort and blessing of man in the highest sense. There was an abundance in the Garden until the race would multiply, and then as the family increased they were to subdue more and more until the whole earth should be subdued. Adam and Eve were made in the image and likeness of God. "Very good," said the Creator. God has not changed His intentions; He still has the same purpose in view. He never changes; He is the same yesterday, today and forever. His purposes change not because He is so wise that He knows the future as well as the past. He is working all things after the counsel of His own will.
I am not teaching republicanism, or indicating what form of government may be best at the present time, but God's arrangement is ultimately to have a republic throughout the earth. Some say we are not ready for a republic yet; we need kings and queens and czars and emperors. I am not deciding about it; let each use his own best judgment on that point. It is not possible for you or me, or any other imperfect being, to establish a government fully satisfactory to anybody who is right minded. We are all imperfect and "cannot do the things that we would."
Father Adam, though privileged to be a great king, having dominion over the fishes, the fowls and the beasts, himself failed to be fully loyal to the great Creator. We remember in what respect he failed. God placed him under a certain test, saying he might eat of any of the trees of the garden save one; of that he was forbidden to eat upon the penalty of death. Notwithstanding that warning, he soon succumbed to temptation. It was not the value of the apple, but the act of disobedience which brought the penalty. Had Adam been in the condition you and I are in, the matter would have been very different. He was perfect, undefiled; no sin in him. He sinned with deliberateness, with intention, and, therefore, with great responsibility. If a man or woman, after six thousand years of falling, were to commit such a trespass, it would not be such a serious matter in the sight of God as the transgression of Father Adam.
The penalty brought upon the race was a deserved penalty; a righteous one, when we see what the penalty was, namely, "Dying thou shalt die." The penalty was death; not to live in a manner of torment. The adversary has sought to mislead us on this subject, and has quite generally succeeded in making the world think God has done some injustice; that He has been the most atrocious character that our poor minds could imagine. This is a part of Satan's tactics, to put darkness for light, and light for darkness. He has represented God as being a great devil, and you and I came to think of the great God, the Creator, as being the worst of all beings we have ever heard of or imagined. When you have time, sit down and write up a description of the worst devil you can possibly imagine, and I assure you it is my judgment it would not be possible for you to picture a worse devil than our creeds have told us our Heavenly Father is. I could not write it worse.
When in India not a great while ago some of the people there told me what they thought of our God. I was asking about their idols, and why they are made so horrible in appearance. I said, "Do you really worship these as your god?" They said, "No, this merely represents our god, it is an image of him." I said, "Why do you make them so ugly?" (They are so ugly I think the devil must have something to do with all of them.) They did not know just why they were made so ugly. I suppose they thought of God as a being with such a horrible character, and they tried to picture this in the idols of wood, stone or metal, as the case might be. They got their wrong ideas of God where we got ours, namely, from the adversary. After asking them why they have their gods so ugly, the thought came to me, "You have been worshiping a more horrible image of God than these poor heathen." It seems a most remarkable thing that the devil could succeed in getting the most intelligent people of the world to believe the most ridiculous thing that could be expressed in language. Can you account for it in any other way than the thought of the Apostle Paul, that we have been "giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils?"
The great adversary had been looking around with a view to having a kingdom of his own. As the Scriptures point out, he said, "I will exalt myself above the plane of the angels and be as the Most High." He wanted an empire of his own. He did not think of taking Jehovah's place, but wished to establish a rival dominion. He was thinking how much better things could be done than God was doing them. When he saw the program God had marked out for filling the earth with a population, and subduing it, and having a glorious empire, Satan said, "Here is my chance; I will seize the opportunity," and he did so by lying. Jesus said Satan was the first liar and the father of lies. He said, "When he [CR426] speaketh a lie he speaketh of his own, for he is the father of lies." What lie is referred to? He contradicted God, point blank, by telling mother Eve that she would not die by partaking of the forbidden fruit. But why did she take the word of the serpent as instead of God? He had to bring in another lie, assailing the character of God. He said, "God wants to keep you in ignorance, for He knows by eating you would become like gods, rivaling Him; that is why He has forbidden you to eat of the tree." Poor mother Eve partook; Adam also took of the fruit and shared the penalty of death rather than be separated from his wife, and Satan had gained his point. For six thousand years he has held the race under his dominion; he is the god of this world in the sense of having the rulership of this world; he now rules in the hearts of the children of disobedience, which means all except the saintly ones. Satan has stolen the dominion of earth.
As the Apostle says, "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth together in pain until now...waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God," for the Messianic Kingdom. They do not know what they are waiting for, but from the divine standpoint we know. God does not intend the blessing shall come to them until these sons of God shall be manifested, in due time. By the sons of God is meant, Jesus the Head and the Church, His body. Not until these sons of God attain the great first resurrection, and the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom, will the poor groaning creation receive the necessary assistance to bring them out of their bondage.
We estimate, and we think conservatively, that about twenty thousand millions of the human family have been born in sin and misshaped in iniquity, lived a few years in trouble and gone down into the prison-house of death. They are held fast and cannot escape until He shall open who has the key. Jesus died to redeem the race from death, and He announced, "I have the keys of hell and of death." In due time He will liberate the prisoners; He will break their shackles, as the prophet says. He will say, "Show yourselves; come forth." Then will the Lord's Kingdom bring its blessings to all.
In the meantime we have various kingdoms, denominated the kingdoms of this world. All of the kingdoms of this world constitute Satan's kingdom. He is really over them all and working through these kingdoms. We do not think mankind would desire him as their ruler if they knew it; they are too loyal to principle; I believe they would rebel against Satanic authority if they recognized themselves to be under him as a prince. You and I are trying to awaken mankind to the fact that there are two opposing authorities in the world, namely, Satan and Christ, the god of this world and the god of the world to come; the prince of darkness and the sun of righteousness; the kingdom of Satan and the Kingdom of Christ.
God is at the present time permitting these various experiences that the world may learn a great lesson respecting the exceeding sinfulness of sin; and to show to angels and man the results of allowing Satan to have authority. God gave the authority to man, but when man believed Satan he was permitted to suffer the consequences, that he might thoroughly learn the needed lesson. But God will not allow this matter to go too far. If God did not hold with a firm hand we would have terrible conditions on earth. They would be a thousand times worse than at present, were it not for His power restraining the evil spirits, under Satan's control. Satan is ruling, and is influencing mankind to such extent as he is able.
We understand the time is near when Satan will be fully restrained and the Kingdom of the Lord will be set up. The nearer the time the better for all who are in harmony with God. Some say, "I expect God's Kingdom to come, perhaps before tomorrow morning," and still they find fault with us because we point out from the Scriptures that the Gentile times are drawing to a close, and that marks the time for the establishment of Messiah's Kingdom, which will break the shackles of tradition, and set free all who have gone down into the prison house of death. What a glorious prospect of the Kingdom. When it is rightly understood, how earnestly we may pray "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is done in Heaven." Let us continue to pray, and to labor with our lips, our hands, our entire beings.
The Lord is now gathering out a class who are to be associated with Christ in the exercise of rulership in that great Kingdom; a class willing to battle steadfastly against sin, and through Christ to be made conquerors and more than conquerors. Such will sit down with Him in His throne when His kingdom is established; when He shall reign upon the earth for a thousand years. Are you sure? Yes, Jesus said so. He said, "Blessed and holy is he who hath part in the first resurrection; on such the second death hath no power ...and they shall reign with Christ a thousand years." In one of the parables this glorious Messianic Kingdom is referred to as the pearl of great price, which is to be regained. He says, "Of all pearls I never saw a pearl like that; I want to sell all of my possessions and purchase that pearl." So it should be with you and me. When we see that pearl we should be willing and glad to dispose of everything else that we may win a share in the Kingdom with Christ, that we may be possessors of the Kingdom pearl. There are other pearls among men; the pearl of political influence, praise of men, riches and comforts of this life. But I trust to each of us the privilege of gaining joint heirship in the Kingdom eclipses all else; the gaining of the inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved for those who are kept by the power of God through faith, unto salvation ready to be revealed in the end of the age. That is our pearl. Have you sold all for that pearl which "Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man, but which God hath reserved for them who love him?" All you and I have is as nothing in comparison to the value of that pearl. Paul said, "I count all things as loss and dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus, my Lord... That I may share in His resurrection." Do you not feel the same, my brother?
When the glorious reign of Christ has finished the work assigned to it He will turn the Kingdom over to God, the Father, that He may be all in all. Then will be fulfilled God's plan as originally stated to Father Adam. All evil and all of the wicked will have been destroyed; there will be no rebellion against God anywhere; sin and evil will have taught their lessons; those who have availed themselves of the opportunities of the Kingdom will be perfect and in harmony with God, and mankind will have the kingdom. The Kingdom shall be given to the saints of the most High, as Daniel declares, but they will not need the dominion, having attained the Divine nature and the better conditions; therefore the Kingdom of earth will be eternally the portion of perfected mankind.
What beyond that? You say, "Nothing is known beyond that. The Church will have had all of her glory, and will retire to private life, as does the president when his term of office is over." Not so: Jesus is finally to be heir of all things, and the Church, His bride, is to be joint heir of all things with Him. "All things are yours, you are Christ's and Christ is God's." "But," you say, "there are no more rebellious provinces to subdue, and bring into harmony with God; what will we do?" Look out some starry night and see all of the worlds about us. Think how long a time would be required to order affairs on Jupiter and Mars; to bring races upon these; to instruct them; to start things going. But what when through with these? Able astronomers tell us there are many suns, each having planets or world's revolving about it as our earth revolves about the sun. How many, a thousand? Yes; more. Ten thousand suns? Yes, more. Fifty thousand suns? Yes, more. A hundred thousand suns? Yes, more than that. Two hundred thousand? More than that. Five hundred thousand suns with planets revolving about them? Yes, more than that. Would there be a million? Yes, more. Ten million? More. Fifty million? More. A hundred million? Yes; between a hundred and a hundred and twenty-five millions of suns. Think of that; and allowing eight planets for each sun it would make a billion worlds. Do you think, dear friends, that you are going to run out of a job? I tell you, no. Our Father is rich. He calls us into His family out of the riches of His grace. As the apostle says in Eph. 2:7, "That in the ages to come God might show the exceeding richness of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus." Think of that! I have not told you half now.
Well, may we pray, "Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is done in Heaven." Is not that our attitude? We are right close to home now; God is speaking to us. If we desire a share in that glorious Kingdom as associates of His Son, we must make our calling and election sure by so running in the race as to obtain that Divine blessing, and honor, and glory with our dear Savior.
OUR TEXT for this evening is found in the eighth of Paul's letter to the Romans, verse 21:
"Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God."
When we speak of liberty in respect to our human family, we must necessarily use the term in an accommodative sense. All civilized nations are prone to boast of their liberty. Christian people are also disposed to boast of our liberty, and yet as a matter of fact the whole world (as the Apostle explains) are slaves. We were born slaves, and only those who have been set free know what real liberty is. Our text, however, assures us that it is part of the Divine program that all of God's creatures who will, may eventually experience this liberty.
As we look out into the world we perceive that everyone, not the world merely but the Church also, are bound in a certain way, bound by our own ignorance for one thing, bound by our own mental weakness, our lack of knowledge, our moral weakness and imperfection, and our physical weakness, so that, as the Apostle has truly said, we cannot do the things which we would. From this standpoint, dear friends, all talk of liberty might seem to be strained. And then the natural question arises: Why did God create us? Why did He bring us into circumstances of slavery, sin, and imperfection in our own flesh? The Bible answers that we were all born in sin, we were all shapen in iniquity, "in sin did my mother conceive me." That is the explanation. We know it is the truth that none was ever perfect born except one, Jesus. Adam was in his perfection when God created him in His own image, in His own likeness, and declared him to be very good, very satisfactory to God. That must have been perfection, my dear friends; nothing short of perfection is satisfactory to God. We are imperfect, and therefore cannot of ourselves be satisfactory. We require that something should be done on our behalf in order to render us satisfactory to God. We need a great work of restitution and reconstruction. We need that these mortal bodies of ours should be changed, made perfect. If they were perfect, with our minds, our will, and our intentions perfect, what grand privileges we would have in life, and especially so if all the human family were of the same mind. If right-mindedness prevailed, Oh how grand the world would be! Even at the present time, notwithstanding all the disadvantages of the curse, how beautiful it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. To have the spirit of a sound mind, to have the spirit of liberty, is a great advantage in the present life. What advantage has a Christian? Much every way, he has been made free, not wholly free but partially free.
This matter of slavery, then, dear friends, in order to have the thing properly before our minds, must be recognized as a slavery which began six thousand years ago, when our first parents were disobedient to God and were expelled from Eden, and cut off from fellowship with the Divine Creator. Then, indeed, their weakness and their ignorance began to weigh upon them, and to impair their powers of mind and of body. It was not long before the disappointments and dissatisfactions of their minds were impressed upon the children that were born, and even in the first of their children we find a murderer. Doubtless he was marked by the very conditions that prevailed at the time of his birth and before. The parents, cast out of Eden, would naturally feel a measure of resentment, dissatisfaction and discontent, wondering if they should not have had more consideration, wondering who should be blamed, and striving to console themselves with the changed conditions in which they found themselves under the curse, outcasts from Eden. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground from whence thou wast taken, for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. That is to say, the curse under which they lived, and the sweat of face which was incidental to gaining their livelihood, so changed their general attitude towards everything that selfishness came in. All this, we can [CR428] see, marked the children, and thus the first son was a murderer, he had the spirit of a murderer born in him; a spirit of resentment was there. Not that Cain was wholly to blame for his condition, any more than you and I are wholly to blame for our condition. You were born in sin, I was born in sin, and so was the whole human family, according to God's Word, born sinners; and the responsibility for this lies not with God; God did not create our race imperfect; the responsibility lies with Father Adam. With everything perfect and everything to his advantage, his was the disobedient act, the sin that brought the trouble upon himself and upon all of his children. God's share in the transaction, therefore, has been merely the holding up of those glorious principles of righteousness which eventually shall shine out and be manifest to angels and to men, as the only proper course which God could have pursued in respect to His rebellious children.
And the fact, dear friends, that we were thus born under these conditions explains to us a great deal that previously was so mystifying. How many people ask: Why did God create that man in such a condition? Why did God bring forth into life the imbecile? Thus the Lord is charged with what Adam did, and what the children of Adam do. People are thus very unjust because of their ignorance of God, and because of their ignorance of the laws of heredity. But we are now seeing that the laws of heredity prevail. The manner in which you live as parents at the time of the birth of children has much to do with their future. Not that it is possible for us as imperfect beings to bring forth perfect children. That is impossible, because "who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?" as the Scriptures remark. But in proportion as the parents are sanctified to God, in that proportion the child will have a blessing. You remember how the Apostle Paul says that the believing parent (even if the other parent is an unbeliever), exercises a sanctifying, setting-apart influence in respect to the child. Whether the believing parent be father or mother, the child is counted as belonging to the believer; for the Apostle says, "Else would your children have been unclean." Because God's people enter into relationship with God, all that they have shares in their relationship to Him. Not only their children, but all that they possess, belongs to the Lord when they have made themselves fully His by consecration. And so our children from this standpoint, the Apostle declares, are the Lord's children, and His special care is over these children of believing parents. But even upon this simple doctrine of God's Word (and the beauty of it is manifest), namely, that He should have a special care over the children of those who have made a consecration of their lives to Him, that their consecration should more or less mark their children favorably, many have stumbled. We know what errors have been taught right from this very text. Presbyterians, having established to their satisfaction the doctrine that persons are either elect or non-elect, and that this election took place long before this world was made, naturally enough believe that their children are elect also, and thus in olden times they divided between elect children and non-elect children. The elect were all to go to Heaven and the non-elect were all to go to eternal torture.
The Presbyterian General Assembly meeting in the United States, held about eight weeks ago, in the city of Atlanta, Ga., passed a very wonderful resolution on this subject of eternal torture. I was pleased to read that they resolved that, henceforth, no infants shall be damned to eternal torment. That is grand, dear friends! Think of it: If 90,000 a day are dying, at least one-third of that number are infants, and thus 30,000 infants are saved every day! Now, the only wonder is that our dear Presbyterian friends did not do this sooner. But we rejoice at every step, and we believe that others will be sure to follow. I do not, indeed, have any feeling of retaliation. Quite to the contrary, I rejoice. My parents were Presbyterians; I was duly baptized that I might be one of the elect infants and get to Heaven, and I appreciate the confidence of my parents. They did according to their light, and I am glad that by the grace of God our light is still better than theirs, not that we have a new light, but that the same lamp (God's Word) is now illuminated as never before. Each page is casting light and glory upon the other pages. Indeed, the whole book is luminous; and as you and I become real Bible students, and take off the sectarian spectacles that so troubled us, we begin to see light in God's light. Then our hearts also are illuminated. The illumination is going on, and I find that I can see that illumination even in the faces of those who have come to a knowledge of the Truth. Their faces seem to shine in a way they did not shine before. They seem to shine more than the faces of other good people even. You know so many people in the world have only blank faces, they have nothing within that gives the real brightness, and even if they be Christ's and are trusting in the Lord, there is so much that is obscure and so much that is dark, just as it was with ourselves, no wonder that their countenances are more or less overcast. But now, thank God, the true light is shining more and more clearly, and we enjoy it, and it is shining from our faces I trust, and is being told by our tongues for the edification and the blessing and refreshment of others, that all may have a share in the blessing that is coming to God's people. That light was obscured for a time during the Dark Ages, because the Word of God was then neglected. It was not studied at all for over 1,400 years. Only creeds were studied; and even since the abandonment of creeds to some extent, the Bible is generally only partially studied, with fear and trembling, lest anyone should get away from the creeds. Such forget that God never had anything to do with the creeds, that they were man-made, and even worse than that, devil-made.
I am glad, dear friends, that Presbyterians are seeing the plan of God more fully, and that they are realizing, as we are realizing, that God is love, and that a God of love never damned even the infants. We would hold that nobody is in danger of going to the eternal torment that we once said we believed in. We are glad that our Presbyterian friends very kindly let the little ones off, it is a step in the right direction. We rejoice with them, and we hope that some steps will be taken for the liberation of others who died before this resolution was passed, that the damage may thus be removed entirely. Yet with our understanding of the matter none need have troubled. We know that the little ones are merely waiting, just as all the remainder of Adam's race are waiting, for the second coming of Messiah. They are all waiting for the time in which Christ will set up His Kingdom, when He will bind Satan for 1,000 years, that the "Old Dragon" may deceive the nations no more. Oh, how sadly he has been deceiving us, and how glad we are to get rid of the deception, and to see God's true character more fully!
So, then, dear friends, this doctrine of eternal torment is merely one of the delusions that have been upon us, merely one of the chains of slavery from which we were freed. And yet we were there under those heavy chains of superstition, ignorant of God's Word. We did not know our God, not having properly studied His Word. Now we are getting a little more freed from the obscurity of the past, and we thank God.
The world is grasping after liberty today perhaps more than ever before. They are seeing the value of liberty, they are appreciating it. Right here I might remind you of one great stroke for liberty, which ended in anarchy, namely, the French Revolution. It looks to us, not only from the natural standpoint but also from the standpoint of God's Word, as if the tendency of our day is very much in the same direction. The whole world today, with its greater knowledge, is appreciating liberty more than ever before, and in their agitation for liberty they are inclined to go to the other extreme and resort to anarchy. The fear of the whole world is anarchy. Not only do the common people fear it, but the most intelligent statesmen in the world fear it, even as Jesus said (describing this particular day), "Men's hearts are failing them for fear, and for looking after those things that are coming." Those things have not come yet, but Jesus referred to men's attitude before the events should come; the anticipation of the trouble brings fear, and thus the world is in this measure of dread. We ought to have a great deal of sympathy with those who are in this fearful attitude, and who are loving liberty. We love liberty ourselves, and if they are inclined to make some mistakes, we should think very sympathetically of them. We see our own mistakes. Perhaps if we had not come to a better knowledge of God's character and His glorious plan respecting the future, you and I might have entertained just as wrong conceptions of liberty as some of the world do today; and you and I might be making for anarchy just as some others are making for anarchy today.
Socialists say to us: "Never mind about the future. We have been told long enough to look to the future for our reward. We are now intending to look to the present for our reward." The poor creatures are without enlightenment in respect to their liberties and rights as men. They have no enlightenment respecting God's true plan, and they are thus losing faith in the future life. The danger is that when they lose faith in a future life, the present life may go for a [CR429] song so far as they are concerned. They will then be ready to sacrifice it for any bauble, for any brutish arrangement that they may term liberty.
But we are talking this evening about the true liberty. There is a true liberty which God has provided, and that liberty is coming. It is not here yet, but every indication is in harmony with the testimony of God's Word, that liberty is coming, and getting nearer every day.
We are not to forget the part that Satan and the fallen angels have had in man's degradation and enslavement. The Apostle particularly tells us about the influence of the "doctrines of devils," that is, of the fallen angels, and how they have affected the world. The whole world is more or less deluded by these doctrines of demons; and the strange thing is that in Christian lands the very worst of these devilish doctrines is found! I was put to shame not a great while ago when speaking to some intelligent natives in India. Apologizing for the fact that they were not Christians, they said: "We cannot be Christians, because we cannot believe what your missionaries have told us, and we cannot believe in your God. We acknowledge that the white man is very brilliant in many respects, and we realize that in a number of respects he is our superior; but when they tell us in their religious talks that our forefathers for generations past have been in eternal torment because they did not believe in Jesus, we cannot receive it. Our God would not allow us to torture even dumb creatures, and how can we believe in and worship a God who would torture human beings, and all on account of their ignorance?" I was obliged to reply: "My friends, we agree with you. But such is not the character of our God. We Christians have misrepresented our Heavenly Father and His glorious arrangements. We are sorry now that we misrepresented our God, and as we get our eyes more widely opened from day to day, seek to tell others of how loving and merciful He is." They said: "Will you not stop awhile and explain it to us?" But I replied: "My appointments are booked ahead and it is impossible for me to stay, but I will arrange for someone to visit you and tell you about the God of Love, and to point out to you what God's plan is." With this promise they were measurably satisfied, and bade me good by, trusting that they would find something satisfactory. They acknowledged that they had nothing satisfactory of their own, but indeed, my dear friends, I was obliged to confess that what they had was as good as anything that was being offered to them--doctrinally, I mean. The missionaries indeed did have moral practices and moral ideals to present, and some education along the lines of sitting upon a stool instead of upon the ground, and eating with knives and forks instead of fingers, all of them very good lessons; but so far as instructions in God's real character was concerned, I found nothing.
Well, this bondage, this slavery in which we were born, has affected us mentally, morally and physically. During the 6,000 years since Adam it has come down and made great inroads upon all the powers and talents that belong to man, so that today we are what we are, and very much ashamed of ourselves as a whole. London could not boast of itself as a whole. London could pick out some noble characters from amongst its inhabitants, no doubt, and take pride in these. And Brooklyn could also take some great characters and take pleasure in them, and also in every other nation and city there would be a disposition to take pride in some of the best and noblest specimens; but as a whole we are sadly undone; as the Prophet David expressed it, speaking as God's mouthpiece: "From the crown of the head to the sole of the foot there is no soundness." We are all enslaved to the extent that we have these imperfections. We are all handicapped, we are not free. Now, what do we need to make us free? We need the very things that God has declared He intends to give. Notice the language of our text in Romans 8. The Apostle is pointing us down to the end of this Gospel age, and also pointing us to the work which the Master will do at His second advent. He says (verse 20), that the creature was made subject to vanity, that is, to frailty--mental weakness, moral weakness, physical weakness. We came under that influence not willingly. We did not prefer to be born in sin, we did not prefer to be born in weakness, either mental, or moral, or physical, but we were born thus unwillingly. God was responsible. He was responsible for the curse coming upon our race. He brought that penalty. He cut us off from fellowship with Himself, and justly so. Are not all the interests of His creatures in His hands? Was it not entirely proper that our Heavenly Father should say to Adam and Eve: "If you will keep in line with the thing I have given you, if you will use your powers and talents in harmony with the righteous arrangement that I have made, then you may have them forever, you may live forever, you may inhabit the earth forever, and it will be yours to possess." The Lord said to them that they might multiply their children and fill the earth and subdue it, that is to say, as their children would be born they might extend the boundaries of Eden and take in more and more, subduing the earth, until the progeny of Adam and Eve, all righteous and perfect like themselves, would be of sufficient number to fill the whole earth, and to control and fully use it.
That was the arrangement, and the arrangement also included a penalty, that if they did not be obedient they would not possess the earth so easily, but instead the curse of death would come upon them. (How mistaken were we in imagining the curse was eternal torment.) "You will not be worthy of living at all. My law will see to it that you shall not live as rebels. I am not preparing a universe to be filled with rebels, and those who wish to rebel against My law and authority, they shall be destroyed from amongst the people." So, then, the death penalty was a just penalty. And the fact that God did not strike down our first parents in a moment with a thunderbolt, was merely the exercise of His mercy. He cast them out of the Garden of Eden and permitted them to do the best they could to prolong their lives. Nine hundred and thirty years was the span of Adam's life. Oh, what a constitution he must have had! Fine indeed, an image and likeness of God, king of the earth. Nine hundred and thirty years was he able to battle with the adverse influences of the unprepared earth, without fellowship with God.
God was fully justified in bringing this penalty upon our race; and we rejoice to know that it is not the unjust penalty we once supposed. God had an object in being merciful to His creatures, in allowing them to live as long as they could. He had a purpose. He knew that by and by in the appropriate time He would redeem them, paying the penalty for them, recover them from their fallen condition, and bring them back again, and that all the experiences they would gain in connection with the fall, with sin, sorrow and pain, the groaning and the dying and the sighing, all those experiences would be valuable to them by and by. What a wonderful plan! How reasonable! Thus we see, dear friends, that God is not dealing ruthlessly with mankind in allowing them to have experiences with sin and death. The Scriptures tell us that we are to learn experiences of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, so that when these are brought back into full harmony with God they will know better. They will know that God's ways are made for happiness and for peace. Other ways are ways of unhappiness; they bring disaster. The proposal of God lasted for 4,000 years, and yet that was no sign of its fulfillment. He did, indeed, give to the Jews a law, telling them that if they were able to keep that law, then He would know that they were able to do the work that He wanted to have done in the world. He would commission them as His people in the world; but first He desired them to demonstrate that they were properly the seed of Abraham. God said, in effect: "I have already explained to Abraham that it is My purpose to bless all the families of the earth, and that the blessing shall come through his posterity. Indeed, you are the children of Abraham; and if you only keep My law and obey My statutes, then I will perform on your behalf all that could be asked. I will give you eternal life, and then you will be prepared to accomplish the work which the "seed of Abraham" was to accomplish, and thus become the blessers of the remainder of the race of mankind." The Israelites rejoiced exceedingly when God promised them such special favor. How disappointed the poor people were as they, year by year, tried to keep that law but were not able to do so. They, like the remainder of the world, were imperfect through the fall, and therefore, like the remainder of the world, could not keep God's perfect law. We cannot do the things that we would. The Jew found he could not obey that law much though he desired to do so. He did get a blessing, however, by trying to keep it; and every person who tries to live in harmony with God and with the principles of righteousness will surely receive benefit in himself (in his mind and his body); but he cannot gain everlasting life. No, God has shut the door to everlasting life, and it can be gained only in one way, through the one door that God has appointed, namely, the Lord Jesus Christ.
But I say that in due time God sent His Son, born of a virgin, that He might redeem, purchase back, that which Father Adam and all his race lost. How? Why, the penalty [CR430] all came through one man, therefore God can justly let the death of one man offset the death penalty of another man. We perceive a perfect equation here. As the whole race came under condemnation through one man's disobedience, so the whole race may come into the other man's justification. "For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead, For as all in Adam die, even so all in Christ shall be made alive." But this grand deliverance is not yet, it is merely prospective. Jesus came, and Jesus died. Yes, the ransom price is in the hands of justice; but it has not yet been applied for the sins of the world. No, we are still waiting. This ransom price affects the whole human family. Everyone involved is equally interested in the death of Jesus.
Now, what is God's proposal? Oh, His proposal is so broad and grand that when first we learned of it we were amazed and said: It is too good to be true. But, my dear brothers and sisters, why should we prefer to think our Heavenly Father is a devil, instead of thinking of Him as being a gracious God and (as He tells us Himself) the Father of mercies and the God of all grace? This message appeals to our hearts, it is the message that we need. All the heathen have devil-gods, none of them have a worse one than we imagined we had. Oh, I was ashamed when I asked the natives why they made their images so horribly ugly. They had no answer, but my conscience smote me when I remembered what an ugly idol I had mentally made for myself in past times. My idol was not graven by the tool of a carpenter, or a stone-mason, but my idol was printed with ink on paper; describing a creed that required a worse god than any heathen god in wood or stone. But the best of God's people gradually triumph over those wrong conceptions. They get better ideas, and try to forget the dream, the nightmare of the Dark Ages. They try to live more in the sunlight of God's precious promises. And yet at times the dreadful creed-god will come in only to cause us trouble and distress.
But thanks be to the true God, we now see that the penalty for sin is not eternal torment, but death; and the recovery is a resurrection from the dead, applicable to the whole human race. The resurrection of the dead, says the Apostle, "Both of the just and of the unjust." It leaves none out. Then those dear little infants that we thought were damned and going into damnation at the rate of 30,000 a day, are simply going down into the tomb. Rachael speaks of these. You remember it is written in the Prophets: "Rachael weeping for her children" because "they are not." She was not weeping for her children because they are in hell or purgatory, but because they "are not." And the Lord's message to Rachael was: "Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the Lord; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy"--the great enemy Death. Death is the enemy that has been stealing our children and loved ones, and causing all the havoc in the world under the curse. God has made His arrangement, and the time is all set. As there was a set time in which Christ was to come at the first Advent and the set work for Him to do then, so there is a set time for Him to come at the second Advent. We may not all know it, but God has a set time. Known unto the Lord are all His works from the foundation of the world. In God's set time Messiah shall come again, not to be crucified, not to suffer again the just for the unjust, not to redeem man again. Oh, no, there is no need for any further suffering for sin. He did suffer, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us back into harmony with God; but now He comes a second time, says the Apostle, without a sin offering unto salvation; that He may save those for whom He died. For whom did He die? Jesus by the grace of God tasted death for every man, Jew or Gentile, bond or free, of every nation and race, color and sex, all are included. I tell you, my dear friends, we have a God who is a great one, and He does His work so grandly. He has lengths and breadths and heights and depths of love and mercy and gracious provision that we never would have dreamed of. In that future time Messiah shall be reigning. The Kingdom shall be the Lord's, and Satan shall be bound that he may deceive the nations no more. The dead shall be awakened and then helped up out of their depravity and mental weakness. All the bondages of ignorance and superstition will be broken off. Strength of mind and body will be obtained by the restitution processes.
I have often tried to think what a perfect human being would look like. I would like to have a picture of the Savior, for I believe that such a picture would give us a good idea of what a perfect man must be like. The Scriptures say, indeed, that when the people heard Jesus they wondered, and bare him witness respecting the gracious words that proceeded out of His mouth, the fine gentle thoughts and grand expression coming down to the simplicity of the common people, that they could all appreciate. And I think that Pilate bare record in that act of his when he brought forth the Master for the last time. Evidently perceiving that there was no cause for death in Jesus, you remember that he had thought to satisfy the fiendish sentiment of the mob by having Him whipped, then he presented our Lord to the people and proclaimed, "Ecce homo!" that is, "Behold the man!" "See the man! You have not another Jew like this man! Do you really want Him crucified? Do you want to crucify the best appearing Jew you have?" This seems to be the last appeal. "Look at the man now. Look Him in the face and tell me, do you want to have Him killed?" Well, dear friends, we are glad that the time is coming when all such misunderstandings will be things of the past. We are not faulting those who crucified the Savior. Indeed, we remember there was a great deal of loving interest, as St. Peter explains, saying: "I wot, brethren, that in ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers, for if they had known they would not have crucified the Prince of Life"--the life-giving Prince, the One through whom everlasting life is to come. They would not have crucified Him had they known; therefore God hid it from their eyes, from the eyes of those not in the proper condition of heart, and then in their blindness they did what they would not have done had their eyes been opened. Messiah must be cut off as foretold, according to Divine purpose. Away back in Moses' time it was written, "Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree." In order that Jesus should be made a curse and should fulfil all the requirements of the law, He must suffer upon the cross. It was so arranged of God, and He allowed the Jews to be merely blinded to some of these facts; He allowed them to thus fulfil His word. But as I say, I have sometimes wondered what the perfect man will look like when the whole world shall have come back. The work of the thousand years shall not only have influenced those living at the beginning, but shall have affected all those who have gone down into the tomb. You remember the Apostle says that they shall all have a resurrection, every man in his own order--in his own company--indicating that there will be a different classification of those coming forth from the tomb. They will come forth in the same condition, with the same imperfections with which they went down-- everything that they inherited from Adam apparently will be theirs still. They will come forth, and it will be declared to them, and they will understand, that God has provided a Savior and a great one, able to save to the uttermost, even to save those who have gone down into the pit, into Sheol, into hades, into the grave, into the state of death. Thus will God show His power in a work of re-creation. What could equal such a manifestation of power? Nothing could compare with bringing father Adam from the state of death. Infinite power will be manifested in re-creating man with the same peculiarities and characteristics as he had before he died. That is what the Bible proposes, and that is the work of the thousand years, namely, the restitution, restoration. Those who fall in line with the Kingdom arrangement will make greater progress in restitution and reach perfection sooner than others. Even the slow will have the opportunity granted to them, and some Scriptures imply very clearly, we think, that one hundred years of trial will be granted to each one, and that if he makes no evidence of progress in a hundred years he will be cut off as merely a cumberer of the ground, and unworthy of any further consideration at the hand of the great Messiah.
My dear friends, when we notice how much men can accomplish even at the present time in ten years without the interposition of Divine power, even though handicapped with ignorance and superstition, and with every mental, moral and physical blemish, we wonder how much will be accomplished in ten years under Messiah's Kingdom. I think that ten years of Divine rule will make great inroads upon all the various vices and sins of the world. I think that ten years of Divine discipline will show great reformation and transformation throughout the world, twenty years still more; and I would like to imagine the condition of the world fifty years from the time Messiah sets up His Kingdom. I fancy it will be a glorious world. I fancy very few will fail in obedience to God; and yet it is not for me to judge, or for you or for anyone to judge. The Bible does intimate that some, even after all the display of Divine goodness, will have the characteristics of Satan himself. When fully surrounded by Divine favor Satan became a wilful transgressor, and in [CR431] pride attempted to set himself up in opposition to God. All those who have Satan's spirit are spoken of as his messengers, his followers and disciples; and for Satan and all his followers God has provided the second death--everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of His power. They shall be treated like natural brute beasts, as St. Peter says. Then, my dear brethren, our text leads us down to the time when all this work of restitution has been accomplished, and it says that when the whole world shall have been restored and brought back to perfection, that will be the deliverance of the creature from the bondage of corruption. Don't you see? The "creature" referred to is the human family. Our good brother Wesley made quite a serious blunder of this text when he said it might be cattle, and expressed it so in one of his writings. But any good man might make a mistake, and we are not finding fault with him. Still, we understand that God has not provided everlasting life for the brute creation. We find nothing of that in the Word of God. They die because that is the order of their nature, to live for a certain period of time and serve their purpose as natural brute beasts, and then having served their purpose to have others take their place. Only for man did God ever propose everlasting life. And so when Jesus died there was no mention of redeeming the brute creation. They would perform, as it were, the functions that God had arranged for them. It was man who was the great object of God's arrangement. It was man who had sinned for whom Christ died. It was, as the Apostle Paul makes clear and explains, by one man's disobedience that sin came in, and by one man's obedience righteousness comes in. So, then, this text of the Apostle in Romans becomes clear and luminous from this standpoint.
The Apostle says that the creature was made subject to vanity not willingly. God arranged it so. Not willingly, but by reason of Him who had subjected the same. He allowed the curse to come, He allowed this inheritance to pass from one generation to the next, the father and mother to mark their children in sin. But He allowed this reign of sin and death that has been going on. He could have blotted them out of existence instantly with a thunderbolt, but He preferred to leave it as it is for the lessons to be learnt; He subjected it in hope. There was hope in it; He wished to give mankind a hope. It was not a sure thing for them because it was still to be left to themselves. When the Messiah shall reign and all the opportunities shall be granted to mankind to return to the Father's house and to return to the perfection in which they were created, to return from the ways of imperfection and from the bondage of corruption, when that opportunity is theirs, it will still be for them to decide for themselves. Our Lord explains the matter: The Father seeketh such to worship Him as worship Him in spirit and in truth, and only to these will He be pleased to give the fulness of his blessing. So, then, it is in the hope that they would profit by this experience of pain and sorrow and sin and dying and sighing and crying, and fully learn the great lesson that a great mistake was made, and when they find themselves back again, they will be so armed with the knowledge of the past, and with the knowledge gained in connection with the fall of the race and the recovery of the race, they will be fully armed against all the alarms of sin and Satan, and they will say: To my Lord I will be true who bought me with His precious blood. It is for the hope that there would be such a class--a considerable class-- in that hope God arranged things, when he allowed this law of heredity to operate against our race, and to bring us down to weakness of mind and body. It was in this hope, and He kept repeating this hope, you remember. He told Adam and Eve just a little about it, saying: The seed of the woman shall yet crush the serpent's head. The serpent represented evil, and the seed of the woman represented the Messiah. Then again He repeated the same thought to Abraham: In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. The hope was always kept prominent. Then to Israel, there is a hope for Israel, and to whom it was given if they could keep the law then you will get life and I can use you in connection with that hope. So, also, with the Christ, the same hope and the same promise. Unchangeable Himself, God seems to have been working according to the counsel of His own will. But as we get nearer and nearer to the great day when these things are to be consummated, God is granting more and more light upon His Word, upon the writings of the Old and New Testaments.
Our eyes are opening more widely to see more of the lengths and breadths, more of the heights and depths than we saw before. Thus we see, dear friends, that it is in hope. Let us consider what the hope is.
Because the creature itself (that is the groaning creation, mankind), also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption. The bondage of corruption is the bondage of death. What is the bondage of death? The bondage of death is a principle we all concede by the weaknesses we have. Your moral weaknesses are so much of that penalty working out in you. This is all the bondage of corruption and death that is holding the entire world. Is not that true? Can we improve upon the Apostle's statement? Is there a wise man anywhere that could write the matter more clearly that would fit all the circumstances as we know them in our experience? Surely not.
Now, then, God's purpose is to deliver the creation from this groaning body; and He has appointed the thousand-year day of Messiah's reign, and Messiah is to be the one who shall deliver men, break their shackles and set them free; not contrary to their wills, but little by little as they exercise their wills and strive to overcome their weaknesses and endeavor to get out of the bondage of corruption. All those endeavors will bring blessing and will be useful to them, far better indeed than if God were to bring them forth from the tomb perfect. If God were to bring them forth perfect they would not know themselves, let alone be known to others; and what then would be the advantage of all the experiences of the downward course? Everything would be lost, they would be just like new Adams all over the world if brought back perfect, and just as liable to sin as Adam was liable to sin because he had not the experience.
Adam had not tasted of evil, he had only tasted of the good; but now God for six thousand years has been giving the world a taste of evil. We have all been eating the bitter fruit, and so the Prophet Ezekiel, you remember, tells us how the children's teeth are all set on edge. The fathers (i.e., father Adam) had eaten the sour grape of sin, and all the children's teeth have been set on edge. You have your weaknesses and imperfections, and I have had mine all as a result of the same transgression. God speaking through the same prophet says that in the coming glorious epoch this law shall no longer be operative. He that eateth the sour grape in that day his teeth shall be set on edge; the soul that sinneth will be the one that will die. In the case of Adam, one soul sinned, and twenty thousand million souls die as the result because they are his children. But one soul died for Adam, as we read: Jesus poured out his soul unto death; He made His soul an offering for sin. In the future Jesus shall see of the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied. He shall behold the grand result--the whole human family bought with the precious blood, and all will have the opportunity of profiting by this uplifting, and thus identify themselves with the experiences of the past and with those other experiences of the future, so that at the conclusion they shall fully get rid of the bondage of corruption, the bondage of death. They will be grand creatures, they will be even better than father Adam. Adam was perfect so far as the physical organism was concerned, but his knowledge was deficient. He knew some thing of the favorable side of life, but he lacked experience of the dark side.
As men return they will be fully informed--having gained knowledge of sin and death, they will now gain knowledge of righteousness and life. If they then decide in favor of righteousness, they will get God's blessing of everlasting life, because "the creature also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the children of God." Was Adam a child of God before he became entangled with the bondage of corruption? Yes, indeed. Is he not in the Bible spoken of as a son of God? But are his children spoken of as sons of God? Oh, no; not down to the time the Redeemer came. During all that time no sons of God were mentioned. At the very most Abraham was a friend, not a son. And at the very most the people of Israel were the house of servants under Moses, not a house of sons. Indeed you remember that that was the very plea upon which they once thought to stone the Savior. He said He was the Son of God, while they denied that anyone could be a son of God. They were quite right, they were not sons of God, for the door to sonship had not yet been opened. No one could be a son until God had made provision for his return to sonship. The whole world, as they gain perfection by the restitution process, will get back to the liberty of sons of God. Oh, that will be glorious, that will be joyful! The holy angels, you know, are all sons of God. He acknowledges them that they are sons, though they are sons on different planes from ours--some upon one plane and some upon another. [CR432] They will all have the same liberty from corruption, the same freedom from death. God does not have any dying sons; whoever is counted of God as a son must have life. He has no dead sons, they are all living sons. Well, where do we come in, Brother Russell? Where is our share? You have talked about restitution in the future, how the creation is coming forth into the liberty of sons of God, but do not the Scriptures say that we are sons of God? Yes, the Apostle John says: "Now are we sons of God;" but he adds that it doth not yet appear what we shall be. We are sons of God, and yet we have not received the full blessing that belongs to the sons of God. We are sons of God in an embryotic sense, in a sort of anticipatory sense. We have the promises of God and the acceptance of God, but we have these in an unfulfilled condition. We are only sons of God in proportion as we can exercise faith. But how do we get to be sons of God? Sons all have liberty. We are speaking of all who belong to Christ. When I speak of belonging to Christ I do not recognize any sectarian lines whatever, whether Baptists, or Presbyterian, or Episcopalian, or Roman Catholic, or Lutheran, or whatever they may be. Those sects are not of God's arrangement; God has only arranged one Church, the church of the first-borns whose names are written in heaven. God's people, wherever they may be, whether in these different denominations or out of them all, if they belong to Christ then they belong to the Church which is the church of the first-borns whose names are written in heaven. No one can blot them out from their membership except the Master Himself; and He says He will not blot out the names that He writes there, except for disloyalty in coming up to the agreement we have entered into as our reasonable service. How do we become sons? How much liberty have we got? There are questions that can be viewed from different standpoints. If you ask the world today, "What liberty do Christians have?" I think they would reply that they have not any liberty at all, they are the most bound-up people imaginable. I was traveling one time in Germany, and there were two passengers in the same compartment with myself. They noticed that I did not get out at the wait stations and get a drink of beer, that I didn't smoke and didn't seem to do any swearing. One of them looked over in a kind and compassionate way, and said: "Say, Mister, what pleasure do you have in life?" Well, I could only smile, my dear friends, because I had so much pleasure, far more than they had, and I was just wondering what pleasure they had in life. Our standpoints really are so different that, as the Apostle says, the world knoweth us not even as it knew Him (Jesus) not. A different standpoint, you see. The world cannot understand our position, and we do well not to take it too seriously with them.
But now, as to our own position, from God's standpoint what is it? Well, in one sense of the word we become free, and in another sense of the word we become bond-slaves. First of all we will see what the Apostle says. He says we become bond-slaves of the Lord Jesus Christ. St. Paul was speaking of himself. He says, "Let no man trouble me, I bear about in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus Christ." What did he mean? The Greek implies much more than our English does. In olden times they had slaves, and every slave had a branding iron upon him to indicate that he belonged to such a person, so that if he ever strayed or was lost he could be identified. The Apostle spoke of himself as having become a bond-servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, and thus he says, I bear about in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus Christ, having in mind the blows he had received when he had been whipped and beaten because of the witness to the truth and his fidelity to the Lord. He had gloried in his difficulties. You remember on one occasion we read of St. Paul and Silas being cast together in the prison at Philippi. They had been lashed, notwithstanding that Paul was a Roman citizen and could have claimed otherwise. In their haste the authorities had lashed them before investigation, and according to the custom, salt was rubbed into the wounds. You can imagine how their poor backs felt as they lay bound, with their feet in the stocks and their backs bent in a very awkward position, bleeding and smarting with the salt! That was a very sore experience, my dear friends, and let us be thankful that we have not the same experiences today; yet let us make the resolution that if, by God's providence, anything of that kind should come along, we shall strive that by any means we might be accounted approved of God, and receive grace sufficient for such experience. But regarding these two noble men--whoever reads the narrative must confess that there are very few such characters in the world today suffering for righteousness sake. These two noble souls broke out in praise to God until the prison walls rang! My dear friends, this is the same Apostle that says to you and me, "Rejoice in tribulation." He knew how to rejoice in tribulation, he could speak from experience; and if you and I should have the same experience, or if our experience come through some other kind of tribulation, in any event let us learn to rejoice in tribulation; knowing (it is the knowledge that makes such a difference) that tribulation worketh patience, and that patience is working experience, and that experience is working hope. All these trying experiences God permits to come, and must be intended to work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. We have, like the Apostle Paul, become bond-servants to the Lord Jesus Christ. I have described what slavery we have come into. How much liberty do we have in Christ? Let us view it from one standpoint. May you eat what you please? May you drink what you please? No. May you be clothed as you would? No. Oh, you say, almost any slave would be allowed to drink and eat whatever he could get. But not so with us. Whether we eat, or whether we drink, or whatever we do, do all to the glory of God. Bound like that? Just so, just so. Pretty severe bondage is it? Worse than that though. More of it still? You cannot even think as you want to. Now, my dear friends, did you ever know a slavery before that attempted to hinder a man's thought? That is the slavery of the Lord Jesus Christ, the only slavery that attempts to hinder a man's thoughts, and, as the Apostle says, to bring every thought of the heart into the captivity to the will of God in Christ. Tightly bound up! If you can get any tighter bonds than those show them to me.
Well, now, my dear friends, there is a peculiarity about this matter, for while you are tightly bound up you have absolute liberty at the same time. Yes, my dear friends, because these bonds are voluntary bonds. It is not that the Lord binds you up, it is not that the Lord puts these shackles upon you. No, indeed, you put these on yourself. He never made a slave, he merely tells you the privileges and the opportunities, and if you choose then to bind yourself, and to bring yourself into subjection and under restraint, then you will be kept of Him. Jesus Christ did not do His own will, but the will of His Father who sent Him. If we would be of His mind and spirit, this must be our attitude and our course, to seek not to do our own will but the will of the Father in heaven. It is therefore a voluntary matter. And more than that, the yoke you have to put on for yourself. He would not even say, Will you take my yoke? He said, Take my yoke, put it on yourself. And if you have fastened it on the Lord with an eternal covenant to be servants of Him, you put that yoke upon yourself. More than that, if still upon you you have the key, and you can open that lock and discard that yoke and be your own freeman again if you choose. So you see, my dear friends, you have not been brought into subjection, you have merely subjected yourself. Christ has not subjected you, you have merely made yourself a bond-slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. Your own will has done it, that is what the Lord is pleased with. There are not very many, but the Lord seeketh such. He has been seeking such for 1800 years, to be copies of His Son. They must be all copies of His Son, for only copies of Christ will be in the Kingdom class. The seed of Abraham will all be sons, and that is why it has taken so long to find this spiritual seed of Abraham. Jesus Himself was the spiritual seed of Abraham according to the flesh--yet, according to the flesh He could not fulfil the demands of that Abrahamic covenant. He needed to lay down His earthly life, because He needed the earthly rights to give to mankind. If He had kept His earthly rights He would have had nothing to give on our behalf, but when He laid down His life on our behalf sacrificially God highly exalted Him to the Divine nature. Now He has the earthly life-rights at His disposal, for He did not forfeit them by disobedience. He presented His life-rights to justice on behalf of father Adam's life and all the children of Adam, so that by this one sacrifice for ever He might perfect all those who come unto the Father by Him. He perfects the Church now, those who now choose to take up their cross and follow Him, by giving them the experience that they need to enable them to come off conquerors. He makes them free from all other authority, and becomes the only one to whom they are responsible. If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. How? Well, he has already made us free in that he has given us freedom of mind. And then He has shown us how to use this liberty, this freedom. We did not know enough to choose before, now we are free to that extent. And then He has shown us how to use this liberty, this freedom, that by using this liberty [CR433] and sacrificing the earthly nature, we might become joint heirs with Him in glory, honor, and immortality, and partake in all the glorious things that God has in reservation for them that love Him; that thus we may make our calling and our election sure with him--making it sure by obedience now. The glorious first resurrection shall complete the work. We are not fully liberated now, for as the Apostle explains we have this treasure, this new relationship, only in an earthen vessel, only in a mortal body. The new creature cannot use this mortal flesh as it would, owing to imperfections and weaknesses. It would indeed long to bring every power into full obedience to God's will, but it cannot do the things that it would, and so the new creature is waiting for the time when the change shall come; and thus the Apostle mentions this in connection with the blessing that is coming to the world, saying, For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now, and not only they (that is the creation in general) are waiting for perfection and waiting for liberty, freedom from the bondage of corruption, but we, ourselves also, the Church, are waiting. We, which have the first-fruits of the Spirit, we, even we, groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, for the deliverance, waiting for our change, waiting for the time when the new creature, the new man that has already been begotten of the Holy Spirit, shall receive the completion of God's blessing in that glorious resurrection change. That shall make us free indeed! Whom the Son makes free shall be free indeed. He will make us free indeed in the resurrection, in a moment in the twinkling of an eye. Then His work for the world will be to make them free, and during the thousand years He will be liberating them, and then at the close of the thousand years all who will come into harmony with Him will be free from corruption, and will have the glorious liberty of sons of God on the earthly plane. We are not on the earthly plane because we have had a change of nature by becoming related to Christ Jesus and becoming joint-sacrificers with Him, sacrificing the earthly nature. We have become heirs of God with Him, and associate heirs in that higher nature.
Thank God, dear friends, for the glorious prospect, not only for ourselves, but for the unhappy groaning creation. May the Lord help us more and more to appreciate not only the liberty we have in Christ, but to appreciate the fact that it is our privilege to be the bond-servants of the Lord Jesus. Amen.
THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP Luke 9:23.
WOULD ye be My disciples? Consider again:
Can ye follow My footsteps through trial and pain?
Can ye throw away pleasure, and glory, and fame,
And live but to honor My cause and My name?
Can ye turn from the glitter of fashion and mirth,
And dwell like a pilgrim and stranger on earth,
Despising earth's riches, and living to bless?
Can you follow the feet of the shelterless?
Can ye ask from your heart the forgiveness of men?
Can ye list to reproaches, nor answer again?
Can ye pray that repentance to life may be theirs
Who've watched for your falling, who've set for you snares?
When ye hear I am come, then can ye arise,
The joy of your heart springing up in your eyes?
Can ye come out to meet Me, whate'er the cost be,
Though ye come on the waves of a storm-crested sea?
When I call, can ye turn and in gladness "come out"
From the home of your childhood, the friends of your heart?
With naught but My promise on which to rely,
Afar from their love--can ye lie down and die?
Yea, we'll take up the cross and in faith follow Thee
And bear Thy reproach, Thy disciples to be.
Blest Saviour, for courage, to Thee we will fly;
Of grace Thou hast promised abundant supply.
The Ministry of the Truth
Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. (2 Cor. 3:5,6.)
THE APOSTLE evidently addressed these words to the Church at Corinth as referring to his own ministry, the ministry of the Truth amongst them. Indeed, he chose very appropriate words, and the matter was very appropriate to them, but we believe there is a still broader sense in which this whole matter can be taken, for it applies to you and to me, and to others of God's people.
The Apostles were specially privileged of the Lord to carry His message and in His name to speak forth the words of life; so in a lesser degree you and I and all the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ have this same privilege of showing forth the praises of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. This is our special business in the world. We are not, therefore, to suppose that the Apostle meant that simply the Church at Corinth were his epistles, and that he has written these things in their hearts, and that, therefore, he was referring to himself merely in this way, for his words elsewhere fully carry out the thought that we have already expressed, namely, that every member of the Church of Christ is an authorized mouthpiece of the Lord. When we speak of the Church of Christ, dear friends, and those who are authorized mouthpieces we are not to have in mind merely all those who bow the knee; the Church of Christ is a very specially called-out class, and a class which has followed that call, and a class who having followed the call of the Gospel, and having approached the Heavenly Father's throne of grace have been accepted of Him, a class which He has not only accepted, but, as the Apostle says, that He has sealed (indicating the sealing of the Holy Spirit). Therefore, only those who have received the seal of the Holy Spirit are really the Church of Christ. There are many others, indeed, who, like the Israelites of old, approached the Holy more or less directly and more or less rapidly and with more or less zeal, but only those who went forward to the extent of making a consecration of themselves were ever permitted to enter into the Holy. (Only those who were priests were permitted to enter the Holy.) And so in God's arrangement in the antitype, He is now calling out a royal priesthood. This priesthood is associated with Jesus, and the Apostle clearly points out to us in many Scriptures that Jesus is the High priest of our profession of our order. We are not of the Aaronic order of priests, for according to the Aaronic order of priests (which was the typical one) Jesus Himself was not a priest; no one might belong to that (as the Apostle points out) except those who were of the special tribe, and appointed to that work, but those priests were only types and, as it were, shadows of that priesthood of which Jesus is the great High Priest, Chief Priest, and of which you and I, by the grace of God, are privileged, if we will, to be the under priests.
And so the congregation of the Lord's people, those meeting in His name, are all of them such as are drawing nigh to God and His message of all who have any interest at all in Him is: draw near unto Me and I will draw near unto you. The nearer we draw to the Lord the closer we are coming into fellowship with Him, the more blessing we have, so that those who make little advance towards the Lord and righteousness and towards holy things, and think a little about the things of God, have a little blessing; God very graciously gives them a little blessing, but they are not Sons of God, they are not Children of God. We are to remember that it is a great mistake that is being made by the world in general when they think along the line they so frequently express, namely, about the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. No greater mistake along Christian lines could be made than that. God has disowned our race entirely. He was the Father of our race, He distinctly tells us so in the Bible, and He just as distinctly tells us that when our race, through our Father Adam became transgressors, He would no longer recognize them as sons but as aliens, as strangers, and placed them under sentence of death. No son of God is under sentence of death; and so, dear friends, Adam and his race are not sons of God, according to our findings in the Bible; no matter what we find elsewhere, no matter what the greatest man on earth might think, we are to go strictly by the Word of God. If we were wise enough of ourselves to know anything, then we would not need the Word of God at all, but since we are not wise enough, and realize that we know nothing of these matters, and that we are wholly dependent upon the Lord's arrangements and revelations of Himself and His plans, it therefore behooves us to take the Word of the Lord implicitly. We are then following that thought when we say that we are not children of God by nature. We were children of wrath, says the Apostle. We were also children of wrath. Thank God we are no longer children of wrath. We have escaped (the Apostle says) the condemnation--or according to a different translation--we have escaped the damnation that was on the world. If these words were only rendered alike in every case our English Bibles would be much more plain to us, but when it is rendered "condemnation" in one place and "damnation" in another our minds are apt to get confused. And so the damnation God has over mankind is not condemnation to torment, nor to throw us to the great adversary and the fallen angels to torture us to all eternity, but the damnation that is upon all men is a condemnation of unfitness to be the sons of God, unfitness for eternal life because we are sinners, and because God has made His arrangements so that He will not recognize any sinners as sons, nor give to any sinners eternal life. We are glad for that. How glad we are that sinners have not by nature eternal life, that thus they might have some eternal suffering or torturing, mental or physical, or of some kind. How glad we are that God has made His plans just as He has declared it in the Word, that life is the gift of God, and that He will give eternal life only to those who come into full accord with Himself, and then since the whole race of Adam got out of accord with God through the disobedience of Father Adam and the condemnation of death, and through the dying process which have weakened us in mind and in body, so that we cannot even do the things that we would do, and we cannot commend ourselves to God as we might like to do. We cannot keep God's perfect law, as the Jew showed us--even the best of them could not keep His law; as we have it in the Scriptures, by the deeds of the law no flesh can be justified in God's sight. And when we understand this we are not amazed at all that the Jews, who for 1600 years or more tried to keep that law, we are unable to keep it, and we are not at [CR435] all surprised that the Apostle points out to us that the law was given by the Almighty, not that He thought that the Jews could keep it, but with the thought that God would set before mankind the perfect standard, so that they might see their imperfections and their need of a Savior, so that in due time God should send forth His Son, born of a woman under the law and the keeper of the law and the obeyer of the law, justified by the law all might realize that the only way to everlasting life is through the merit and the sacrifice Jesus offered on our behalf, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us back again into accord with God.
And now we see, dear friends, as we understand God's Word, that He has made this great arrangement by which the world of mankind might come back into accord with Him, and although He has not yet opened the door to the world, they are still outside, and so far as they know there is no plan of God for them, because God has not revealed to the world His plan, but He has revealed it to the Church, as Jesus says: to you it is given to know the mystery of the Kingdom of God, but to all outsiders these things are spoken in parables and in dark sayings, that they might hear and not understand, because it is not for any to understand God's plan except this special class that He is now dealing with; and this special class is the class that is harkening to Him, that is feeling the drawing, that is wishing to draw near unto God, as the Apostle says, feeling after God if haply they might find Him. He wishes to draw near unto all these, and He has sent through Jesus and through the Church a special message to all such, speaking peace by Jesus Christ and by the blood of His cross, telling the world of mankind that God has had a plan, that He has provided a Savior and a great One, and that He is able to save to the uttermost all who will come to the Father through Him.
And then the answer comes back, yes, but thousands and millions have died without even hearing this precious name, the only name given under Heaven amongst men, what about these? The Lord says that His arm is not short, and He assures us that all who are in their graves will hear the voice of the same Son of God, and they will all come forth and they will live and attain to everlasting life, but not yet, not yet the world, God's due time has not yet come. Nearly 2000 years ago the time of God came for beginning the work, and the very beginning of that work, as we see, was the sending of His Son, and the work of the Son was to demonstrate His loyalty to the Father by obedience to the Father's will even unto death, even the death of the cross. And we see then that God declared that because He had thus loved righteousness and hated iniquity, "God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows." And so the Apostle tells us with regard to that prophecy respecting Jesus that He by dying had fulfilled the Father's will perfectly, and raised Him from the dead by His own power, and in due time He highly exalted Him far, far above angels and principalities and powers and every name that is named-- far above all, and exalted Him that unto Him every knee should bow. The Heavenly ones? Yes. Both in Heaven and on earth. Already, dear friends, we perceive that the Heavenly Hosts have bowed to the One whom the Heavenly Father has exalted. But the time has not yet come when every knee on earth shall bow, but it is written that every knee shall bow and every tongue confess to the glory of God. And so our faith looks up and waits for that glorious blessing upon the world, when they shall hear that only name and have the opportunity of bowing the knee, and when only those who refuse to come into accord with the divine glorious blessing and arrangements, only they will be destroyed and that without remedy.
Meantime this glorious Master of ours whom we now recognize as our Master because the eyes of our understanding have been opened, and whom the world would be recognizing if their eyes were opened; but their eyes are closed, the god of this world has blinded their eyes and they see not, neither do they understand. The Lord is only wishing to open the eyes of those whose hearts are in that right condition. To have our hearts not in the right condition, this would be to give us knowledge that we should not rightly use. Hence it is written that "None of the wicked shall understand." But the wise shall understand. God wishes His people to know, because He can tell His children of His plans, and they will not be injured by knowing, but there are people in the world who, if they knew of the love of God, might do violence to His love. He has given us the liberty to tell out His message. He has not restricted His people, saying you must not speak here or there, but you may speak My message wherever you have an opportunity, and I will see to it that none will be able to understand it except they have the hearing ear, and I will give that hearing ear.
What a contrast between this arrangement God has made for His great secret society and the other arrangements of secret societies of men. Every secret society recognizes that it must keep certain of their secrets apart from other people, and in endeavoring so to do they have passwords, and have special means of keeping out all those who are not members in proper order and standing. But no such difficulty with the Almighty, because everybody may tell all he is able to tell about God's great plan. None is to be able to understand it, and only those who have the leading of the Holy Spirit and the instruction of the Lord from the inside, they alone will be able to comprehend the lengths and the breadths and the heights and the depths and to know the love of God which passeth all understanding, and to have it rule in their hearts.
We see then, dear friends, that as Jesus has been exalted (1800 years ago) and finished His work, then the next thing in order was the selection of the Church, the under priesthood, the under priests, because God at the same time that He arranged to have a great high priest arranged also to have an order of priests under His headship. There was Aaron, the type and the sons of Aaron under him; here in the antitype there is Jesus and other Sons of God under Him, for "it pleased God," writes the Apostle, "in bringing many sons to glory to make the captain of their salvation perfect through suffering," and He having become the captain of our salvation is leading onward a company willing to follow in His steps. He has become a leader, He is not driving, no one is being driven by the Lord; fear is not the lash by which any of the Lord's people are driven into sacrifice, it is a privilege of love, and if it is not of love it is not a sacrifice at all, and if there be those who have not the spirit of the Master in this respect, then they are not of the royal priesthood at all, and they will not be associates with Him at all, whatever we think there is for them in the future. God's great arrangement is broad; but now we are specially interested in this word that appertains to ourselves that (as the Apostle says) we might make our calling and our election sure; that we have a calling to God, and that there is an election going on, a selection that God, that God is selecting a special class from amongst mankind to be associates with the great High Priest of our profession, Jesus. The thought that He is to be the king of glory and to reign throughout the earth, and to establish righteousness in the earth, and that we are invited to be associates with Him. O, wonderful thought--was there ever anything like it before? Surely not. Will there ever be anything like it again? We believe not, dear friends. Then this is the one opportunity for becoming members of this royal priesthood, and this is the one opportunity if we have already taken the step. It is the one opportunity of losing that great privilege. Let us hold fast, therefore, whatever we have attained to, and let us press along, as the Apostle says, along this same line; because faithful is He that called you, Who also will do it. We might be in doubt if it were an earthly being that had made us such great promises; we might say that it is all promises; it is on the paper, but it will never reach fulfillment; it was never intended anything but to lure and captivate. O, my dear friends, it is the reverse; we are dealing with the God of all the earth and He is giving away this great privilege and blessing. Moreover, there was a purpose in revealing it. Faithful is He that is calling us Who also will do it.
Now, the Apostle was speaking to some of this priestly class; he was one who had become one of the priests himself. That is to say, each one who approaches God, he reaches the place of a full surrender of himself, of his will, of his all, to God, is then anointed a sacrifice, because Jesus, our great High Priest, stands ready to accept us as joint sacrificers with Himself, making good our shortcomings and imperfections of the flesh that thus our sacrifice may be acceptable with the Father, and that we may become members of this priestly company. Just as soon as we become members of this priestly company, the anointing comes. You remember how every one of the priests before entering upon his office and becoming a member of the High Priest's body, he came under the holy anointing oil. Just so with us. You remember our Lord was anointed with holy spirit, as we read "Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore, God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows." Above his fellows, head over his fellows. The Church are his fellows. We are his fellows. You know the meaning of the word "fellow," one [CR436] who has fellowship, associated with, not inferior: inferior indeed in some respects in the sense that my hand is inferior to my head, the head is a more honorable part than the hand. But the hand is a fellow member with the head and with all the other members of the body, sharing with the interests of the head. So we all fellowship with the Lord, sharers in this great matter which the Father has entrusted to Him--we have received of the anointing under Him. So the holy anointing oil which came upon our Savior at the time of His consecration that same anointing came from His hand, as the Apostle Peter tells us, upon the Church at Pentecost. He received it from the Father and He shed it forth upon us, and not merely upon those who were there assembled at Pentecost, but that same anointing which ye have received of Him abideth on you and shall be with (in) you, and it has been coming down over the body all the way down for these 1800 years; and whoever comes into the body comes under the anointing, so that the anointing which ye have received--we are not anointed as individuals but as members of His body. Of our own selves we are nothing, we have no standing of ourselves.
Here then is the beautiful picture that God gives us. Now, as soon as we receive this anointing, then we have the authority to preach. My dear friends, there is the anointing that we all can have, without which we would have no authority to preach. Hear how Jesus expresses it, or rather, hear how God expresses it by the prophet in respect to Jesus; and Jesus Himself quoted this very prophecy from Isaiah in the synagogue in Capernaum: 61 Isaiah: The spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek. "He hath anointed me," what for? To preach? Yes. Was Jesus anointed to preach? When did He get His anointing to preach? At the time of His baptism, when He made consecration and the Holy Spirit came upon Him. Did He have no anointing before that? Did He preach any before that? No. No anointing before. From that time on the spirit of the Lord was upon Him, anointed to preach and to tell the good tidings; and He had good tidings to tell. And so the whole life and ministry of Jesus was this preaching of the Truth, declaring all the Truth; and because He was anointed. Then He authorized His disciples that as soon as they would receive the unction, this anointing, from on high, they should preach, beginning at Jerusalem; and the ministry was to be to all the nations of the world. So it has come down, and the Apostle Paul speaks here as how he is one of these priests which exercised this power and privilege of speaking to others in the name of the Lord; and so he says of the Church: ye are our epistles, ye are manifestly declared to be epistles of Christ, ministered by us, we wrote that in your hearts, we told you about it, you get the blessing through the things that you have heard, and thus written not with ink but with the spirit of the living God, not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart. And ye may say, my dear friends, that the same Apostle has been doing a great deal of the writing in your hearts and mine. God has used him as the pen, as it were, by which these precious things were written and impressed in our hearts. This is the message that is so wonderful, that has such a transforming effect upon your life. Why, what were you before you heard of the grace of God, and what a change has it made in all your living and thinking? It not only affected you in respect to your spiritual interest and your worship that you could worship God better in spirit and in truth when you came to know Him, but it affected your earthly affairs I am sure. I am not particularly acquainted with your affairs individually, but I know in a general way from all the true people of God as I come into contact with them that from the time they get clear into the Truth it seems to have a cleansing effect inwardly and outwardly, their methods, their speech, and every power. One gentleman said to me--he was a laboring man, a carpenter-- "why," he said, "Brother Russell, I cannot tell you how much the Truth has done for me. It has made my heart happy and glad, and given me fellowship with the Lord in respect to the present life, and the prospect of that great prize beyond, but, Brother Russell, it has really helped me in my business; my health is better, I can think better, I am more competent in my work, and it has made my employers to have more confidence in me. They tell me to do the work and leave me to do it. Somehow they have the impression that I am living a conscientious life. They have absolute confidence, and they say, go and do it, and it seems as if something had taken place inside, and somehow everything works more orderly and more systematically since I have seen the order of God's great plan." It is true, my dear brethren, concerning nearly all of God's people who have been in the Truth for any length of time, whose lives have had an opportunity of undergoing that great transformation mentioned by the Apostle, this transforming or by the renewing of our minds, and may so be able to prove the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
The Apostle then has done such a work in the Church there, and has been doing such a work in the Church all the way down. He was indeed a very able minister (a minister means a servant, we do not want to forget that). We all want to be ministers of Christ, servants of the Truth, ministers of the Gospel, servants of the Gospel, not a lord, but a servant. We want to keep that thought clearly in our mind, because there is a tendency to lose sight of the meaning of this very simple phrase. Indeed, the Apostle was privileged to receive the message himself to speak forth words to others, so all of God's people are privileged to do so.
Have you received the anointing of him, and does it abide with you? Yes. Very well, it is true of you in proportion to your experience and opportunities, as was true of the sealed or anointed ones. And everything that appertains to him has its relationship to us. And so, when he said "the spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek," that also comes to you, just as soon as you come under that same Holy Spirit of anointing.
He was anointed to preach, to preach good tidings. No man ever was anointed to preach bad tidings. Dear friends, there is no scripture for it anywhere. The bad tidings of great misery that have been preached in the name of the Lord that have driven thousands if not millions away from God and the Bible, is not of God, there never was authorization for that--only authorization to preach the good tidings of great joy which shall be indeed to all people. That message all the anointed ones are privileged to speak, and no one else is privileged to speak or preach at all. Not everybody can come here to Great Britain and say, I am from France, and so I speak to you in the name of the French Government. What would be done? Why, he would be arrested. They would say, you are a fraud, you have no authority to speak in the name of the French Government here. He would be subject to arrest, he would be misrepresenting the matter entirely. And so people here, when they claim to be ministers for God, ambassadors for God, they are setting up a claim that they represent the Lord and His Kingdom which is to be established when the right time shall have come. And when the appropriate time shall come, the Psalmist says, that he will ask of the Father, and He will give him the heathen for his inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession, and that he shall then take his great power and reign, but that kingdom is not yet. We are living here, He has sent us the authority, He has sent us the Holy spirit, He has sent us the unction from the Holy One that we should be His representatives, that we should be His mouthpieces, and speak in His name and tell about His coming kingdom, that we might make known to everyone who wants to know, that has an ear to hear, the grace of God that bringeth salvation that has already appeared in the sense in which Jesus is bringing it, and which ultimately is to appear in power and great glory for the blessing of the world. You and I and all the others who have received this anointing of the Holy Spirit, whether you and I know them or not, whoever has the mark which God has recognized, the evidence that he has received the spirit of the Lord, the spirit of sound mind, the new mind of Christ, all such are ambassadors for God, all such are ministers of this New Covenant, ministers of the Truth, and the one message is for us all to show forth the praises of Him Who called us from darkness into His marvelous light; I used to wonder what that was, that marvelous light; was it the light about hell, was that the marvelous light, that 999 out of every 1000 were to be eternally tortured? Oh, no, dear friends, gradually our eyes are opening, we are seeing where that darkness came from, and the Apostle calls them doctrines of demons, and they had their power over us, and we have sympathy still for those over whom they have power; and the same Lord has promised that ultimately all the blind eyes shall be opened, and all the deaf ears shall be unstopped.
But now the Apostle says in our text, not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God. My dear brothers and sisters. I believe that is one of the most important lessons for God's people to learn. We have no doubt that we are ambassadors [CR437] for God, that we are all privileged to preach in his name according to our opportunities and limitations, as for instance persons of lesser education might not have as much influence as a person of more education might have, and one with more talents might have more than one with fewer talents, and persons of white colour might have more opportunity than a person of darker colour; not that God makes any difference. We are subject to certain conditions which are unavoidable. And the sisters are limited in that they may not preach from public platforms, but there are plenty of opportunities. What grand opportunities we all see every day for sisters, an opportunity of preaching the gospel, showing it forth in her conduct, not merely those who have leisure and time to talk and to visit and to tell about the good things in that way. Some even of the humblest may have the opportunity of telling a neighbor over the fence, as they hang up the washing, something about the Savior, something about the glorious plan of God. All have the opportunity of passing the literature on that will carry the message, and so all are privileged to be sharers together in this great work that God is doing in sending forth the message. What message, Brother Russell? The same message that Jesus preached. What was that? That was the message of the kingdom, this gospel of the kingdom must be preached in all the world for a witness, not to convert the world, but for a witness. But why have a witness if you are not going to convert the world? The witness is for the purpose of finding that special class which the Lord is seeking. The witness is for those who have an ear to hear, not for those who have no ears to hear that God might find this special elect nation from every people and kindred and tongue. In the first resurrection, there will be found from all nations and peoples and kindreds and tongues in the glorious Messianic Kingdom a class that with the Savior will be engaged in blessing all nations during the thousand years of Messiah's kingdom. That is the message we have, dear friends, the message of the kingdom, but while realizing that we are privileged to be servants of God, and to be ambassadors of God and to tell forth the message, let us remember that we have no sufficiency of ourselves. What does that mean? That means that you should realize and that I should realize, and that all who would speak in the name of the Lord should realize how poor these imperfect vessels are for carrying so glorious, so grand a message, the message of the King of kings, and Lord of lords. Who is worthy?
I tell you, my dear friends, as we begin to realize the greatness of our God and the grandeur of the message we have to give out, we feel our own insufficiency. And then we hear the Lord's Word saying: Be ye holy that bear the vessels of the Lord's house and that bear about this message of the Lord to others. Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts. The truth was intended for this particular purpose. This must be the first effect upon our own hearts. Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth, was our Master's prayer on behalf of you and me and all his people sanctification, setting-apart, separation from the world, separation from sinners. And the more, dear friends, that we endeavour to live that separated life, that copies the Savior's life as it is possible in our imperfect bodies to do, the more we try, the more we find that as the Apostle declared, "in my flesh dwelleth no perfect thing." Oh no, our perfection and sufficiency is of him, as Jesus said, of yourself you can do nothing. We can do nothing of ourselves, and the sooner we learn that, the better. As we go forth, during the remainder of this day, and the coming days of the week, one lesson I think we should bear these thoughts in our hearts is that we are not sufficient of ourselves. Not that we should do nothing, and so be like the man in the parable, who went and hid his talent in the earth. Oh no, but realizing the great privilege, and feeling the burning desire to tell forth the praises of him who called us out of darkness into light, then while bursting with the desire to tell the good tidings to others and full of energy to preach the truth at any cost and expense and inconvenience, then remember we are not sufficient. What would be the effect? Oh, we should want to go frequently to the throne of the Heavenly grace that we might find mercy for our imperfections, and that we might find grace of God, to help in every time of need.
I believe, dear brethren and sisters, that is the special thing that God's people everywhere need to have in mind, and particularly as we see the Word of God and the plan of God so clearly, and as we perceive that so many others are so very blind on the subject, and we realize how very blind we were before ourselves. Then there was a danger of a certain amount of pride and self-sufficiency, and we would know how to do everything, but let us remember that we are just as apt to make a mistake.
Then we need the guidance and power and the Lord's spirit to give us wisdom and direction. And if we realize that we are not sufficient for these things it will bring us near to the Lord, and it will make us more earnest in ascertaining the mind of the Lord, and study the Word of the Lord, because there are certain things concerning which we would say, how am I to know that that is true, and as you become fortified in the knowledge of God's plan, and become strong in the Lord and in the power of his might, our own weakness will not stand in our way. His might will be sufficient for you, and the more and more you will be feeling, and we all are feeling more and more, that we have no sufficiency, that we need his help every hour, and that we may have it because the work is the Lord's. It is not our work. It is His work, His kingdom. We are carrying the message for him; we are his servants, and it is proper that we should say, Lord, show Thy servant what Thy will is, Lord, grant Thy servant wisdom and grace, that I may speak forth the words with wisdom and power and earnestness and with simplicity. That is another matter, dear friends, simplicity, which is often lost sight of by using large words, perhaps, which many of the audience do not understand, and perhaps the speaker does not fully comprehend. We do not want to be puffed up of ourselves. We do not want to seek to be anything of ourselves. The real servant of the Lord should seek to be nothing of himself, but to show forth the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I was much impressed by reading the Scriptures that it is recorded by the Apostles themselves that they were ignorant and unlearned men. What a wonderful admission, what evidence that those men were simply trying to tell God's message, that they were not trying to puff themselves up or to speak for themselves. They were merely speaking as the Lord's mouthpieces. I do not think they could have hidden it, but they did not hide it. It is recorded there and has been read all down during the 1800 years. You and I know, and Peter and John knew that they were ignorant and unlearned men in comparison with the Sanhedrin. And they had to give their message in opposition to all the influence of the Sanhedrin; and yet the Message of God is mighty to the pulling down of the strongholds of the devil. It has always been so, dear friends, because thanks to God, we are the stronger when we are thus weak, as the Apostle says, when I am strong, then I am weak, and when I am weak, then am I strong. Therefore then, dear friends, let us be weak as respects ourselves, and have no confidence in our own flesh or in our own policy, and let our confidence be in God, for our sufficiency is of God. He is the one who is talking to us by the Apostle. The Apostle says, I have not done it myself; God is the one who has been doing it, who also hath made us able ministers. He was an able minister. My dear friends, anybody who reads these epistles of St. Paul will see that he was a very able servant of God, and your ministry and your power for God and power to show forth the gospel, and your power to make the way of the cross and the coming kingdom simple to others will depend largely upon your being made able ministers of the Lord. It will be the Lord who will make you able ministers. If God shall make us able in anything, it is to His praise, for it is His work. We may glory in His goodness, in being used as His vessels. And those who become the most pliable now will be made into the most glorious vessels in the future. You know that very fine things are made and very fine glass, that is very plastic, that can be twisted in any form, and made into the right condition. And I wish so far as the Lord is concerned to be very pliable that He may mould us and fashion us as He will. This goes on first of all in our own lives, first in ours. You cannot give sanctification to any man or woman if you yourselves have not received it. Take it in first and then let the message come out.
Let us not forget, dear friends, in this connection, that the message to give is not merely about the plan of God, Oh, no, but with all the telling about the plan of God and about the Kingdom of God and about Jesus and what He has done, let it all be with one aim in view, and that one aim in view is that the person who hears it may be sanctified by it, that he may be set apart and become one of this class of the royal priesthood, brought to the point of full consecration. And any conversation or preaching that you and I may have an opportunity of doing will be valueless except in proportion as it shall have some such result. So the question we [CR438] should ask, not how many times have I preached, not how many Scriptures have I quoted, the result will be how many have I helped nearer to the Lord, how many have I brought to this place of decision, that they give their hearts entirely to him, and be sanctified by the truth which they have received. So in proportion as we would be able ministers of the Lord, it will be in proportion as we ourselves are sanctified, and in proportion as we have produced in others that sanctification of spirit and heart and life.
May the Lord assist us to be indeed able ministers of the New Covenant. Amen.
Harvest Workers Meeting
THE Bible speaks of a Harvest of this Age. To our understanding, we have entered into that period of time when the present age is closing, and the new age beginning. We understand that this is a lapping time--the new lapping on to the old. We understand that we have been in this lapping time for a considerable period, and that the new dispensation in particular might be considered as beginning about 1873, with the close of the 6,000 years.
Dear Brother Rutherford gave some of the evidences (reasons for conclusions) regarding the signs of the times-- indications that we are in the closing of this age. It is not the thought that we have yet entered into glory. It is not the thought that the Master's glory and Kingdom are now prevailing, but that it is near at hand, and it is only a question whether or not we may know the time for the establishment of the Kingdom.
We would not claim that we know the actual date; all we merely claim is that the Scriptures do give us certain bases for faith. The Scriptures, for instance, give us a certain amount of logical data which seems to indicate that the 6,000 years from Adam have closed, and that the great, 7,000 has already begun. But at what time in this seventh 1,000-years the Master will take his great power, and begin His reign, is not definitely shown. We have our expectations respecting the end of the Times of the Gentiles; respecting the setting up of the Kingdom in power and great glory. Our thought has been, and still is, so far as we are able to understand the Scriptures, that the Gentile Times will close with October, 1914--not a great while in the distance. There are others, of course, who misunderstand this thought, and think that in October, 1914, we are expecting to see the Lord come in the flesh. That would be a great mistake. Others think that we are expecting that at that time the world will be burnt up. That is a great mistake too. We think that that time will be ripe for the burning up what the Bible speaks of--not a literal burning, but a time of trouble--that is the "fire" spoken of by the Apostles and Prophets as being the feature which will close this present age, and the feature with which the new dispensation will be introduced. We think this is very clearly stated in the Scriptures.
But whether that Time of Trouble will come promptly upon the close of the Times of the Gentiles, it is not for us to say; and it is not even for us to dogmatize, that we know positively. We do not know positively--we merely have drawn certain conclusions from certain scriptures, and these have been presented to you orally and also presented in the printed page, so that you might have a basis for faith. And it is open for everybody to exercise that faith, or a different faith. One may believe whatever he likes respecting the time, and any other feature of God's plan, except those essential features which are indisputable, and which are laid down plainly that Christ died for our sins, and that the great Seed of Abraham--members of The Christ--will deliver the whole world from the dominion of sin.
We think, however, that the Apostle meant that we should know something about the time, for he says, "Ye, brethren, are not in darkness that that day (that great seventh thousand-year day) should overtake you as a thief," (1 Thess. 5:4) but, "As a snare shall it come upon all them (all the world)" but ye, brethren, are not in darkness," intimating that there will be a special light to God's people at that time. And the Scriptures seem to indicate, as nearly as we are able to calculate, that about October, 1914, the Gentile Times will end. God has not stated that just when the Gentile Times end all the world will be in anarchy. He has indicated that anarchy will come, but He has not said that it will come the very minute the Gentile Times end. The Gentile Times, shall we say, are a period of lease during which God has permitted the Gentiles to do what they could towards the world's government. For a time He had His own kingdom, the Jewish nation. They were His special nation, His special people, and during that time He simply allowed the other nations to lie in darkness. But then came the time when He discontinued His own Kingdom, and, with the taking away of the crown from the last of the Kings of the line of David, the Lord made a special declaration, which would seem to indicate that He had set apart a period of time during which the Gentiles would have to do the best they could, and show to themselves, the world, and the angels, what they could do in the way of giving good government to the world. And so it has been that these different nations apparently were inspired by a feeling that they wanted a good government, that they wanted to establish order. All reasonable people realize that order is a very essential thing in the world; without order there is no peace, and no blessing. Therefore--perhaps getting their cue from the fact that God had promised Israel that they should become a great nation--perhaps getting that idea, the other nations thought that they would be the ruling nation. "Why should these Jews think they are going to become a great nation some day just because their God has promised that they shall be the ruling nation of the World. O! we have our Gods also, and they are greater than theirs; and we will see what we can do." And in due time God set aside His own typical Kingdom--it was only a typical Kingdom --and allowed the Gentiles to see what they could do: and they have done pretty well altogether. While we can, of course, feel that the world has done great things, yet we can realize that humanity has been striving for something good rather than for something bad. For instance, Nebuchadnezzar, the king who set up the first universal empire--and a magnificent empire it was from the world's standpoint-- thought that, by taking the people out of this country, and putting them into that country, and vice versa, and by so mixing up all the world till they were all strangers in a strange land, he would be able to govern them better. He seemed to know a good deal, did Nebuchadnezzar. And the Lord shows, in the picture given to Nebuchadnezzar, that his kingdom was the head of gold in the great Gentile image. [CR439] But this kingdom became very corrupt, and failed to accomplish very much. After a time it got into bad practices, and the historian says that Belshazzar made a great feast, and commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which had been taken out of the temple in Jerusalem, how they drank out of these vessels and praised false Gods, and how in that very night the kingdom was destroyed.
Then came the next Government--the Medes and Persians, to see what they could do. "Let us see if we cannot give the world a universal government. We can do better than Nebuchadnezzar. We can do something better than that." And in some respect they did better.
And so it was with all these Gentile Governments-- Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome; all these different empires have held their sway, and we have seen the best that man can do.
I suppose that these people were not trying to see how much harm they could do, but rather to see if they could not set up a grand empire which would be the best the world would ever see. They did bad things, but more or less the conception in their minds probably was good; and it has shown us that the very best that man could do is very, very unsatisfactory, and that it is not at all what we would conceive to be the grandest and best condition for the earth; and it shows us that unless God would interpose everything would be unsatisfactory always.
And now, with the most wonderful blessings which are given in our day, and which have brought us to the very climax, as it were, of the enjoyment of life, and the appreciation of the blessings and powers of men--in this very time, God is allowing the greatest climax of all, when man has reached his highest, in general education and knowledge and wonderful inventions. O! I am very much surprised when I look at the great engineering feats of today; the tunnels under rivers and through mountains, and our wonderful trade, and our great buildings, and I feel rather a pride in the human family, and I think to myself what the angels of God, looking down, would say. "Look what those poor, imperfect sinners are able to do." It is really wonderful, my dear friends. And God is allowing it all to culminate in disaster, because with our enlightenment there is selfishness --the selfish principle that has got hold of the hearts of men--and the more enlightenment there is, the more men know how to use the forces of nature and powers of man selfishly; and this selfishness on every part, the world over, is bringing the time of trouble. And that is exactly what the Bible describes; it will be a case of every man's hand against his neighbor.
And so God will allow this, the most wonderful period of man's intelligence, to go down in an awful rack and ruin. But not for long; because the Divine Wisdom has foreseen, has arranged and ordered the whole plan, that this time of trouble which is now coming, was held up until due time; and so, while men's eyes have been blinded, and while the world does not see what it will all eventuate in, God has been getting ready His forces, He has been preparing His Kingdom --Christ the head of that Kingdom, and the Church to be sharers in that Kingdom.
So then, we see from this that it is perfectly reasonable to think--to my mind it is perfectly reasonable to suppose-- that, from the time that God took away His typical Kingdom, and said to Zedekiah: "And thou, profane wicked prince of Israel, whose day is come, when iniquity shall have an end, Thus saith the Lord God; Remove the diadem, and take off the crown; this shall not be the same; exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high. I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it; and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it to him." There, you see, was a time of overturning of the world's affairs, of the affairs of Israel, until he should come who had right to the throne. We recognize our Lord Jesus as the one having the right to the throne; we recognize that the Lord Jesus acquired the right to that throne by His redemptive work, his loyalty to the Heavenly Father unto death; and that the rule which belonged to man passed to Him, the great Shepherd of the flock, and that the right is invested in Him; and that He is waiting for the selection of the Bride class. And the whole matter will be completed, we understand, in this period of time; 2,520 years from the taking away of the crown in 606 B.C.--"Seven times" (seven years of 360 days makes 2,520 days, at a day for a year equals 2,520 years); so that, if we have the true reckoning of time, it would seem that this period would end with 1914. However, we do not think that it is infallible, it may not be true for two years or so--it may be more; but as far as I can tell, that is what it is, and we will leave it there. If we have made some mistake in the time, it will not matter a bit; we are consecrated to Him unto death. Perhaps the Lord will test us along this line. But I should not mind; I tell you that I am enjoying the Lord, and enjoying the previous Word more and more every day, and if it gets still better by 1914, I don't know how good it will be. So that, whether we have the exact moment is very immaterial to us; it is quite a secondary matter. But there is no doubt at all that the Kingdom will come--whether in that year, or another year--it is sure to come, "For the Lord of Hosts hath spoken it, and who shall disannul it"?
We understand that the last 40 years of these 2,520 years are set apart; first, because there was a similar harvest time at the end of the Jewish age, and then because many prophecies seem to mark the beginning and the end--prophecies seem to mark 1874 very clearly, and then other prophecies (the Gentile Times in particular) mark 1914. You remember that at the end of the Jewish age it was just 40 years from the time that Jesus began his ministry--40 years exactly until the Jewish nation disappeared as a nation, went into Hades as a nation.
This Harvest time, dear friends, is a very interesting time, just as the Harvest of the Jewish Age was a most interesting time. I should say that the Harvest time is the most interesting time of all to the farmer. No doubt it is very interesting when he ploughs his fields in hope, and then it is an interesting time when he sows his seed in hope, but I fancy that the farmer's great interest of all is right down in the Harvest time, when he is thrusting in the sickle--when the reaping machines are getting in the crop. I fancy that is the time of the greatest interest of all. And so I think it was with the Jewish nation; that that 40 years was the most interesting period of the whole age; and so I think it is in this Age, that these 40 years are the most interesting years in the whole Gospel Age: they are most interesting.
And you and I living today, as representatives of the Lord's body, are privileged to enjoy more blessings now. We have more opportunities now in the Lord's service than any people at any time back. You know how it is on a farm at the time of Harvest; everybody is fully engaged, and they cannot get laborers; and so the Lord pictured that same condition in respect of the Church. There was a laboring time back there, "Go ye into the vineyard. Pray ye the Lord that He will send more reapers into His harvest." And so there has all the way down the Age been an increasing need for laborers. But the real time of the Harvest is toward the conclusion of the Harvest time, and as we look around us today, we find that truly the fields are white to the reaping, white for the harvest. And so it is today; the world never was in a better condition for the Harvest work than it is today. And those who are very intimately associated with that work will all bear me witness that in years past although there was work indeed to be done (and very pleasant and profitable work it was, and we were deeply interested in that work) yet we did not have the same opportunities as today; there seemed to be more hindrances to the work. People were not so wide awake as they are at present. But the gradual spreading of the Truth, the Volunteer matter, the Colporteur work, and public meetings--all these things have been getting the people more and more awake gradually. They have not woke up perhaps as quickly as you and I have done. We perhaps woke up with a start; but these have been getting a little restless; and we have been awakening them all, nevertheless, and all the world is gradually getting awake. Some of them have [CR440] fallen clear off again into Higher Criticism and Evolution; but many of God's people in the denominations are getting thoroughly awake; and I am sure that just in proportion as they get awake, it is an opportunity for you and I to do some good work for them. We are told that we are trying to pull down their churches! Oh, their hearts are so set upon bricks and mortar! But the great image that they have set up is of no account. We can feel for them, for we are really trying to do them good; we are wishing very greatly to give them a good share of the blessing that we have already received. If you could give to your neighbor one tenth of the blessing you have received, would you not be glad? That is the very spirit the Lord wishes to see in us; the spirit of love. And love, instead of thinking evil of its neighbor, and trying to do him harm, thinketh no evil, and desires to do good. Love is anxious to serve. Love and serving seem to go together; whoever loves will serve.
But our first love is for the Lord, His plan, His work; all these come the first; and we want to show that we have His principles in our hearts, and we want to correct the misunderstanding they have about our Heavenly Father; we want to show that they have misrepresented the Heavenly Father's character. If someone had said evil about your father's character, you would like to explain that your father was not that kind of person, and you would be very earnest about it, wouldn't you? How much more so with our Heavenly Father.
Now we, as New Creatures, who know how great is God's love--how much interested we should be in telling others about His love, and in showing forth His praises. We love all the brethren--whether Presbyterians, Methodists, Catholics, whatever they may be, we love them. We should like to help them some. We know the difficulties they are in; we were there ourselves once. We have had similar experiences; we know just how they are all mixed up in their minds, and how they would like to know these things. Now we want to have a great sympathy towards them; and we want to use all the wisdom that we have, we want to do a good work for them, because the end of the Harvest is drawing near. We are getting in very close to the end of this Harvest, and whatever will be done in the way of getting into the Kingdom will be done soon. Would you not feel sorry if that brother who brought you the Truth had been negligent in his duty? or the sister, if she had been negligent of her duty, and you had been allowed to remain in darkness? Would you not feel sorry? And so we are to have this spirit prevailing--an increasing desire to show the Lord's praises forth, and increasing desire to serve all the brethren; and we know that this is the work which the Church should do.
We seek the work that the Lord makes. Dear brethren often say to each other, "Pray for me that I may make my calling and election sure." He means all right; but how foolish! Shall I pray that you may make your calling and election sure? You pray that I may make my calling and election sure? Why, we are to make our own calling and election sure. God could not make your calling and election sure for you; and God could not make your calling and election sure for me. I must do that for myself. If I do not do it personally, it will not be done at all.
But there are certain cases in which we are told to pray. As the Apostle Paul says, "Dear brethren, pray for us." For what? What do we want each other to pray for? "O! that a door of utterance may be opened to us, to speak the mystery of Christ," says the Apostle. (Col. 4:3.) That's it. The Apostle never said, pray ye that each may make his calling and election sure. He never said pray for each other in that way. Pray for opportunities of service. Pray for wisdom in presenting the message to others. Pray for the Lord to assist you in inculcating meekness, humility, and gentleness. That is what we are to pray for.
And we realize, dear friends, that God is not giving these things away in any haphazard manner. The disciples made that same mistake. They said to Jesus, (Mark 10:36.) Grant that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory. But Jesus said He could not do that. It shall be reserved for whom the Father has arranged it; and the Father has arranged it along the line of justice. Whoever is the proper one to be placed next to the Lord will be next to the Lord, and all the praying in the world would not put anyone there who was not worthy. Do we suppose that God is going to do things in heaven and earth according to our imperfect prayers?
We may, however, pray for many things. We can pray the Lord to send forth more laborers in His vineyard. Lord, we see that there is such a wonderful harvest work going on, and now we see that there are opportunities for more laborers. We can pray that the blessing of the Lord may be upon the various instrumentalities being used in the Harvest work, that more and more laborers may be sent forth, and that the work may be done according to His will, and that all the ripe wheat may be gathered in before the time. And so we are praying in accordance with His will in praying that we may have a share in that work, and that others may have a share in that work. It is the grandest work ever known.
As I look back and read of some of those good men of old who laid down their lives in the Lord's service--Brother Wesley, for instance. I always like to think of Brother Wesley, he had such a loving character. And Brother Knox, Brother Calvin, and others. All these good men laid down lives in that work, of which you and I can see more than they did; for we are privileged to see more of God's character, of God's plan, of the lengths and breadths and heights and depths of the glory of God, and we are more highly favored than any who laid down their lives in preaching even a part of the Gospel. And they realized these things and they prayed, "Lead, kindly light, amidst the encircling gloom." And if they, in all that difficulty, were faithful unto death, why, I say these are grand characters. They had trials that we do not have; trials of faith that we do not have. We may have trials they did not have; but it is for us to appreciate the great privilege of this time, that you and I have the opportunity of being engaged in this great work now.
But coming down from this to what this work is. I remind you that the Harvest work seems to be little different from any other work that has ever been done in the world; but it is a little like the work that took place at the first advent. You remember how it was then. The disciples did something that the Scribes and Pharisees never had done; something totally different. They went down amongst the people, they usually went about two and two here and there preaching the message. And they had a message, too. Their message was about the Kingdom, the KINGDOM. The Scribes and Pharisees of course believed in the Kingdom, but they were getting the idea that the Kingdom was only likely to come by means of co-operation with the Roman Empire. The Sadducees hardly believed anything. They represented the most intelligent of the people. The Sadducees did not believe in any future life at all. They were like the Evolutionists--let us do the best we can today, and if we do that, then our children will be on a higher plane, and their children will be on a higher plane still, and so on. Well, these great thinkers and wise men of their day had given up all ideas of the Curse--they were Higher Critics--and they were trying to work themselves in with the Roman Empire, and they thought that by thus getting into good relationship with the Roman Empire they might be able to have Israel acknowledged in some way, and so might be able to bring the Kingdom. And so, when the High Priest made the prophecy that it was expedient that one man should die rather than that the whole nation should perish, they very likely thought; "If we allow these men to go on, and teach these things, the Romans will come and take away all the liberties that we have, and so we should not have a thing left, and what about the Kingdom then?" But the 12 and the 70 went about everywhere telling the people that the Kingdom was at hand, Messiah's Kingdom was at hand, and the whole country was being stirred up with the thought that Jesus was the Messiah.
Well, we have a message to deliver today, that the kingdom is at hand. It is a great message. And we have to tell the world that God has a better Kingdom which is going to be established, and which will satisfy all people. And so the world is beginning to realize that God has a Kingdom, and that the prayer we have been praying for years refers to God's own Kingdom. And I believe that there is a great substratum of people who have a good inclination towards the Lord, and towards the Bible. There is a deep feeling of reverence and piety; and that is one of the reasons that I have felt a special interest in Great Britain, because I felt that the experience of centuries, and of this repeating of the Lord's prayer, has been very valuable, and that it has taught the people that there is a God, that there is a rightful authority.
Still, our message is not a popular one. They do not like to hear that the Kingdom of God is coming, and that soon. If we were to put it off for a hundred years or so, they would say, "All right. There is no danger there." But when we say, 1914, oh! that's terrible. They do not notice the inconsistency of the matter. Why, these people are expecting the Lord to come tomorrow; and yet we are foolish because we are not expecting it till 1914. And these people who will tell you that they are expecting the Lord to come tomorrow, tell us that we [CR441] are so foolish to expect that Messiah will really set up His Kingdom in 1914; that a great time of trouble will come then, and that in the midst of that great time of trouble God will establish the Kingdom that is to be the desire of all nations. My dear friends, it seems so strange to me that intelligent people can hold on to the foolish notions that they have believed for centuries, and yet reject the clear, simple statements of God's Word. But apparently it is owing to hardness of hearing.
Still, we are to bear this in mind, and we are sympathetically to remember that they are doing according to their light; or rather I am afraid I should say, according to their darkness. And it looks to me--I mention this from my own experience--that some of the Lord's people are running great danger along that line; they are in danger of being puffed up by the fact that they know a little more than other people about these things. But in proportion as we get puffed up, we are not suitable instruments for the Lord. We must be very humble and teachable, lest we be ensnared by the Adversary. There is no people in the world that Satan is trying harder to ensnare than ourselves. The denominations are so soundly asleep that they do not need any special attention; but those of us who are awake, and have got a measure of truth, of light, of understanding--to these he gives very special attention. Let us not forget that.
And there is reason for us more and more to realize the need of prayer. The Adversary is strongly against all those who are seeking to follow in the footsteps of the Master. We may be sure that he is following us very closely, that peradventure he might find an opportunity to touch us. The Apostle tells us that we are to keep ourselves in the love of God, that we are to keep near to the Lord, and near to the truth, that thus the Adversary touches us not. The nearer we are keeping to the Lord, the farther we are from the Adversary, and the more we shall be on our guard against any endeavors on his part to touch us, to ensnare us, mentally, morally, or otherwise.
All these things are of importance to us who are engaged in the Harvest work; and, so far as our judgment goes, it has been those of our brethren and sisters who have produced most of the gifts of the spirit, those are the ones that are most earnest in the Harvest work, and they are the ones, therefore, that need to have these instructions before their minds especially.
But coming to the Harvest work more particularly, we see that God has made different arrangements for this work, and the Lord Himself seems to have arranged these things for us. The Lord opened the door to one opportunity, and we took that step; and then he opened another door, and we took another step, and so on. And so it seems that God has been leading the whole work, and the Harvest work seems to be gaining momentum every day, every hour. The people are better prepared to reason, owing to increasing knowledge, and the laborers in the vineyard are becoming more wise, and more skillful in operating the various pieces of machinery that go to accomplish the Harvest work. They are getting better oiled. Oil represents what the Apostle called "Unction." Unction means oil. He says, "You have an unction (an oiling) from the Holy One, and you all know it." Every one of us has received the unction of the Holy Spirit; that is, a lubrication. It makes you more smooth, it makes you more gentle, more kind and more patient, more painstaking every way. It makes you more and more a copy of the Lord, the more of this oiling you are getting. You are one part of the machine. The Apostle says we are all like members of the body, and each one must go and purchase a supply of that love which supplies the suppleness of the joints. "That which every joint supplieth," the Apostle says. It is love he means.
I see, then, taking a broad view of the harvest field, I see a great work going on everywhere. And I am so glad. I see the Lord's people so active in the service, some in some way, and some in another. They seem to have been getting the right thought; and that is, not that we should all try to do the same thing, but that each one should try to do that which he can do best. And that is just what the Lord means us to do.
And so all those who are in the Body of Christ are trying to get all the other members in; and as soon as we have got them all in, and every member has been tested, then the Body will be completed, the harvest will be over, and the door will be shut to that high position.
But now we have not yet found all the members, but we are finding opportunities increasing on every hand; and we are learning not to seek particularly to do some big thing. The Lord wants to see how faithful you will be in doing some little thing. That is what He is looking for. Does He say, "He that is faithful in that which is greatest?" No. "In that which is least." And so you and I want to be faithful in these little things, no matter how small your opportunity is. You may not have opportunities to engage in the volunteer work, in the colporteur work, or in the book-loaning work; but the question with the Lord will be, "Is he, is she, doing all that he or she could do? Are they showing that zeal, are they showing that spirit, that if they had more opportunities, they would do more?" If you are not using the small opportunities, then the Lord will see that you could not be properly trusted in large opportunities.
But we are to remember that our sufficiency is of God. We are not sufficient of ourselves. He does not want us to be able to do our own will. If we have given up our all to the Lord, we want to do the Lord's will. But then we must know what is the Lord's will for you and for me; and we should take in all our surroundings, and say: Well, now, the Lord knows what could be done in this city, and the Lord knows what education I have got, what advantages I have got, and He knows, too, what disadvantages I have; and we should look at it in this way, then in that way; and then we should say: Well, what would the Lord have me to do; what would be pleasing to the Lord; He has a great work, but He will let me do something, I am sure He will. He says so. Now what would He have me to do? I want whatever the Lord will let me do. I know He will choose my inheritance for me eventually, and I am sure that He will just give me something to do now, if I will be on the alert to do with my might what my hands find to do. If it is done slackly, don't think that the Lord will find something else for you to do. If you are slack on the little things, then He will probably be slack about giving you other things to do. But if He sees you are faithful in the little things, then He will give you something more to do.