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SPIRITS IN PRISON--Re Dead Knowing Nothing.
QUESTION (1911)--1--If, as you say, the Bible teaches that the dead know nothing, who are the spirits in prison? And how could the Lord preach to them?
ANSWER.--There might be worse questions than that. That is a Scriptural question anyway. It is a very good question, and I am glad that it comes up. The spirits in prison St. Peter mentions, and he does not tell us that they are human spirits in prison; he does not say a word about their being human spirits; he says they were spirits that suffered in the days of Noah when the ark was preparing--these were the spirits to whom Jesus preached when he died and rose. What spirits are they? Those are some of the same spirits that the apostle Peter and the apostle Jude both mention. Those spirits who kept not their first estate. God cast down to Tartarus and restrained them in chains of darkness until the judgment day. They are mentioned in the fifth and sixth verses of Genesis, where we read, "God saw that the whole earth had become corrupt, and the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were fair, and took to themselves wives of such as they would." They were the angels before the flood. At that time the angels had the power of materialization as more recently the holy angels have been privileged to manifest themselves. For instance, the angel of the Lord appeared to the mother of Samson. They thought they were talking to a man, but it was an angel, because he ascended in the flame of the altar, and disappeared. So again, we read, when Abraham was dwelling in the plains of Mamre he lifted up his eyes and beheld three men coming unto him, and he received them, he made them welcome, and prepared a dinner, and they ate and talked with Abraham. Paul mentioning them, said, "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." He is referring exactly to what Abraham did when he entertained those angels unawares. They appeared as men, and they were men to all intents and purposes until they had performed their work, and then they dissolved and became spirit beings again. Of those who came to Abraham, we read that one was the Lord before he became a man at all. He was a spirit being at that time, and had power to appear as a man, or in any other way, just the same as an angel could, and the other two were angels who went down to Sodom, and delivered Lot and his family before the city was destroyed by fire. So, as the holy angels thus appeared to Abraham, and ate with him, and talked with him, and had all the functions of a man, just so with the angels prior to the flood. All the angels had this power, and not merely the good angels, for they were all originally good, but at that time, they had that privilege when they had the work before them of trying to help man out of his trouble and degradation. Instead of helping mankind back to perfection the sin amongst mankind drew some of these angels from their former estate, from their original love for the spiritual plane, and they preferred not only to take the human form to appear to man, but preferred to live as human beings; and they left their habitation, the heavenly or spiritual condition, and lived as men in the world, and they had wives, and raised families, and their children were men of renown; they were gigantic in size. God beheld that the whole earth [Q671] had become corrupt; the influence of those demons among men had a corrupting influence in the whole world, and the imagination of the human mind was evil, and only evil, and that continually; and God said: "I will destroy man from the face of the earth." And he brought the flood of water on the earth and destroyed these giants as well as mankind that were imperfect. Now, how long that was going on we are not told, but we have reason to believe that it was going on for at least one or two centuries. Why? Because at that time no one was counted a man until he was a hundred years of age. Adam's children were nearly always a hundred or more before they had any posterity of their own. They did not reach manhood's estate until they were about one hundred. And their posterity were men of renown, they were giants. That signifies to my mind that this condition of things had prevailed at least one hundred years previously. Now Noah was perfect in his generation; there was nothing impure, there was no corruption from the angels in Noah's stock, as indicated, nor in his family, and these were the only ones in the whole world. At least we do not know of any others. All the rest were drowned in the flood, and these only were carried over; and they were declared to be perfect in their generation- -generated perfectly. Now these angels that fell at that time, the apostle Peter says, and also the apostle Jude, that God sentenced them, restrained them in chains--not literal chains, but chains of darkness, so that they could not materialize, so that they could not come out into the light. They were restrained until the judgment of the great day. There is rather an intimation there as we get nearer to the judgment of the great day. The Lord may permit these angels to break over those chains of darkness, and I believe that is the teaching of the Word, and we may expect these demons to give us a terrible time in the world, and that will be a part of the great time of trouble that is coming. That is my firm belief. There is more or less of speculation about that, but I wish to differentiate it from other things on which I do not speculate. You remember in our Lord's time he cast out these demons. They could not materialize, so the next best thing was to try to get possession of human bodies, and they would possess a human being. They would get into him, and so anxious were they to do so, that we read on one occasion there was a legion of them in one man. They said, "Our name is legion." God has given us a will whereby we can resist this intrusion, and I would warn everybody against these evil demons. They are still working at the present time. They represent themselves as being the dead, and all spirit mediums are really mediums of these spirit demons. The demons know about your dead friends, and they can answer all the questions about them.
So during all this time, some of these angels may long to be back in the fellowship with God. I always find, my dear friends, that if you put bad people together, they are unhappy, and I imagine that when all of these demons were cut off from the fellowship with God they wanted to get mixed up with humanity to get a little comfort and variety. They did not know what God was going to do with them; they believed they were to be destroyed, and they understood that to be the end of everything out of harmony with God; but they were waiting in this uncertain way. Then came [Q672] the time when they beheld Jesus when he left the glory he had with the Father, that he had humbled himself and become a man, that he had died, the just for the unjust, then they saw that, in obedience to the Father he had died, and then that the Father had raised him from the dead, and it spoke a great sermon to these fallen angels; it was a wonderful sermon he was preaching, not by words, but by actions; he preached by obedience to the Father's will. Then again, when he was exalted above angels and principalities and powers, it was another lesson to them, for they saw that God had rewarded him for obedience, and realized that God had punished them for their disobedience--Now if God is doing all this for the redemption of mankind, it may be our great God will have some compassion upon us and perhaps he will do something for us. So, it became a sermon for them, and there is an intimation in the Bible that God may do something for them. That intimation is given by the apostle when he says that not only will the church judge mankind, but also, "Know ye not that the saints shall judge angels?" We are not going to judge the holy angels; they will not need any judging; the angels that will need judging will be the fallen angels. Just how we will do it I do not know, but the apostle's words are there, and I take it for granted they mean something; and I believe something in their lives demonstrates whether or not they might be granted some future opportunity to show that they had learned a great lesson from their sins. But we have no reason to think that many of them are in this condition of repentance; no reason to think that many of them received or accepted any message of grace, because all through this Gospel age these demons have been fighting hard, and the apostle charges up against them those doctrines of devils, doctrines of demons, that have so troubled you and me and the whole Christian world. You will find they have given all these devilish doctrines to the heathen. Go to any heathen nation and you will find that they all believe practically the same thing, that the devil told us, only he made it worse with us, and he got us more fooled than even the heathen have been with respect to the future. No heathen man believes as badly of his creator, of the great God, as we Protestant nations have believed.
SPOTS--Spotting Our Garments.
QUESTION (1906)--1--What sin, or sins, spot the robe?
ANSWER.--I suppose the reference here is to the statement of the Scripture that we are to keep our garments unspotted from the world. We answer that the garment itself we must first see to be the robe of Christ's righteousness, our justification, granted to us or imputed to us as a covering for the blemishes of our flesh. What would be implied, then, in keeping the robe unspotted. What kind of spots might get on it? Well, it is a figure of speech, you see. Suppose a lady had on a white dress, and she was very careful of that dress. She would know that an ink spot, or a grease spot, or anything of that kind, would spoil it, and make it unsuitable for general wear. So she would be very careful. And that is the way the Lord would have us to do. He says, "There is your robe, clean linen, pure and white, representing the righteousness of the saints, the imputed righteousness [Q673] of Christ covering all your blemishes," Now, in what way could we blemish it? By saying or doing something that would be wrong. A sin would be a spot, or a sin would be a wrinkle is the thought. And the person that would be without spot, without blemish, and without wrinkle in his robe, would be one who was in full accord with the Lord and pleasing to him. Nobody can go into the wedding with a spotted robe, but the Lord has made a gracious provision that if a spot gets on your robe, you may apply the precious blood of Christ, by asking the Lord to remove the spot, that the robe may be in His sight spotless.
STEPHEN--Authority for Stoning.
QUESTION (1905)--1--Why could the Jews stone Stephen when they could not put our Lord to death?
ANSWER--I do not know. I have often wondered about that myself. If you find out let me know.
STEWARD--Duty Re Property.
QUESTION (1910)--2--Suppose that I own the equity in property amounting to $5,000. Does the Lord expect me, as a wise steward, to turn this amount into the harvest work, when, in order to continue in my business, it would necessitate selling the property and paying rent?
ANSWER--Now the dear brother writing this question is the only person that has the right to decide it. It is not for me to decide what he should do, for I do not know all the circumstances; and even if I did know them all, it would not be for me to tell him what he must do. It must be his own voluntary act, whatever it is, and his own judgment must be used. I have already expressed what would be my judgment, that a man should look out for his wife and children and any others who are closely related to him and properly dependent on him for support, and he should not denude himself of property so that he would bring either himself or any of those dependent upon him into reasonable danger of requiring private charity. I do not know how to state the matter more clearly than that. You see you might imagine a case in answer to this question in which the brother would have nothing probably in the way of an encumbrance at all, and it might perhaps be a wise thing for him to sell his property, clear it off and rent a store. It does not always follow that it is to the best advantage to own property. Sometimes it is just as well to have rented property. He must decide the case.
STEWARD--Things Expected of.
QUESTION (1910)--3--In order to be a faithful steward and complete one's consecration, do you think the Lord expects one to sell the roof from over his head, or will the Lord show the faithful steward just how and when to proceed?
ANSWER.--Well, it is pretty hard to answer this question just the way it is written, so I will not attempt to do that; but I will tell you what my thought is, in a general way, along this line. The Lord has given you certain talents and powers, and among these is so much money, and he expects you to use the money. You consecrated to him all of it when you gave yourself and all you had. It included every penny that you have, and now when he hands it back to you he says, I will make you a steward and I will see how you use this, and I will judge how much more I can entrust to you [Q674] for the future by the way in which you show your faithfulness in the using of this little amount which is now at your disposal. It would seem to me, then, that if I had only five dollars to my name--roof over my head or no roof over my head--I would consider the five dollars a stewardship; and if it were five thousand dollars I would still consider it a stewardship; and if it were five millions, I would still consider it a stewardship; and according to the amount of opportunity that I had, and the responsibilities that were upon me, I would want to use whatever I had in the way that I thought would be pleasing to the Lord. For instance, if I had a family and they were dependent upon me and there were young children, I would think that it would be God's will, and that I would be acting as a proper steward, if I would make a reasonable provision for these children--not that if I had five million dollars I would think that they must all he rich and have a million apiece. I would not understand anything of the kind, but would understand that they would probably do a great deal better for themselves and for the Lord's glory if they did not have very much. And yet, if I had $5,000,000 I would feel that I ought to give more to my sons and daughters than if I had only fifty dollars or if I had only $5,000. I would think it would be a reasonable consideration to be held in mind, and I think probably if I had five million, I would give them $50,000 apiece, I don't know. I think I should be about that generous. I don't think I would be any more generous than that. And if there were any of them I thought would be specially injured by giving them that much, I would cut it down. But in everything, your responsibility is the thing that is before you--how does God wish you to do? Do according to what you think would be pleasing to the Lord. It is your stewardship, not mine. But remember, that if you are thinking more of your children in respect to your stewardship than you are thinking respecting the Lord's children and the Lord's work, it shows that you have not the proper respect for him and his work. You are, therefore, to take all of these things into consideration when you decide how you shall use whatever is in your hands. If I had a wife and family; I certainly would not think of selling the roof from over our heads, unless it would be a very fine roof to get a cheaper one, the fine one not being so necessary. But I would certainly think of keeping a roof for my family I would think it part of my duty as a father and husband to provide for necessities in that manner. I wish that all of God's people had roofs over their heads--not extravagant roofs, not very elaborate houses, necessarily, but that they all had some little place they could call home. It is true, Jesus did not have a home of his own, but it is also true that John, his disciple, did have a home, as we read of Jesus when dying commending Mary, his mother, to that disciple whom he loved. That disciple whom Jesus loved took Mary to his own house. He had a house.
STRENGTH--How Can We Tell When We Are Going in the Lord's Strength and Not Our Own?
QUESTION (1914)--1--How can we know when we are going in the Lord's strength and not in or our own? Does failure signify going in our own strength? Please answer.
ANSWER--It is pretty hard to know just what the [Q675] questioner had in his mind about going in his own strength-- physical strength to work for the Lord, or what you mean I do not know surely. I will be obliged to answer at random--make a guess. I should say, however, that to go in one's own strength would be known to him by his discernment as he would criticize himself as to whether or not he is inclined to go about some matter and be doing it very busily and had forgotten perhaps to make it a subject of prayer and to think and study out whether it was the Lord's will or not. That would be a sign that you were neglecting to look to the Lord for strength and guidance. That would be a sign that you are in danger on that line and you should be more careful. Afterwards if you see it is the Lord's way according to His Word, make a prayer on the subject and act according to your best judgment, then you will be sure that you are walking in the strength of the Lord.
STRIKES--Belonging to Unions and Participating in Strikes.
QUESTION (1916)--1--I belong to the railroad union B. of R.T. and am also a consecrated child of God. In case of railroad strike what would you advise me to do?
ANSWER--I do not think I could say anything on such a subject different from what I have already said in regard to the matter in the 6th Volume of Studies in the Scriptures. I think a good many of the friends have not read the six volumes for quite a while, and I think they had better read them over again. I remind you of how it is possible to read the entire six volumes through in one year by reading twelve pages a day. And I believe those following that plan are getting a blessing, and have answers to questions they would not have if not following that plan, or that they could have in any other way. Because all our minds are leaky. I receive letters almost every day, I might say, and very frequently while giving a kind of answer by letter we will try to refer the friends to the volumes, because there these subjects are treated much more satisfactory than in a letter. We would not like to be discourteous and say, "See such a page." Therefore, we put in a partial answer, but the volume would be better.
Now, in this question we have suggested in the sixth volume that the Lord's people are in our judgment at liberty to join such an arrangement as a business matter. If it is a carpenters' union, a bricklayers' union, locomotive engineers' union, if it is necessary for the maintenance of their job or occupation, to join, we see nothing in the Word of God to contradict that thought. "But would you prefer that?" No. I would prefer to stand fast in full liberty. "But would you sacrifice liberty in Christ?" No. It would not have to be sacrificing liberty in Christ because I would still be at liberty, if they do anything criminal or illegal, I would say,"Brethren of the Bricklayers' Union, or Brethren of the Locomotive Engineers' Union, I am sorry to tell you I cannot agree with this course you are taking, and while trying to be loyal in every way, yet I am drawing the line because of this principle I think is involved." But I do not see why there might be very many things to find fault with. It seems to me if it were not for just such arrangements as these unions have made that wages and conditions of labor would not be so good as they are. And if God has been pleased to allow these men [Q676] to make such arrangements as a power for their own uplift out of degradation, I say I am well pleased with what God has permitted. To whatever extent any of these unions may extend to anything illegal or do harm to some non-union man, to that extent you and I as followers of Jesus could not be in harmony with them, and if any union plotted to blow up buildings or destroy life or produce riots, you and I would be bound to say, "Brethren, we cannot stand with you. We stand for righteousness and truth. We must withdraw." And there is no need so far as I can see unless they do something of that kind. Merely for them to order all the locomotive engineers to go on strike would not mean they are going to do violence to the life of any man. Not at all. So far as I can see, however, this railroad strike is likely to be settled in an amicable way. I think it will be. I am not a prophet. It looks to me as though it would be.
SUFFERING--Church for World.
QUESTION (1909)--1--Col. 1:24: "Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake." Did Paul and does the Church now suffer for the sins of the world?
ANSWER.--A good deal depends upon the way a thought enters and proceeds through the mind. What does the questioner mean? What had the questioner in mind? Words are poor vehicles to express thoughts. This is what I understand to be the question, or at least I will answer it in this broad way, which I trust will cover it.
Paul recognized that he had been invited to become a joint sacrificer with Jesus and to fill up that which was behind of Christ's afflictions. What did Christ suffer for? Whatever Christ suffered for was what Paul wanted to share in; he was going to fill up that which remained behind. Now, what did Christ suffer for? "He suffered the just for the unjust." He died for our sins; He died as a sin offering. Did Paul, and do we die that way also? I answer, certainly. Is this shown in the Scriptures? It is most clearly shown--it could not be more clearly shown. Then why did the Apostle state, "for his body's sake, which is the Church?" I answer, that is the way Jesus laid down His life. Jesus did not suffer for the Gentiles and wicked people; He gave it all to the service of the Church. The way you spend your life, and the value of your sacrifice are two different things.
He was to lay down His life sacrificially, no matter how; He was laying down His right to life, His earthly life rights; these became an asset, a valuable thing in His hands, to be applied for somebody else's benefit, and when He ascended up on High, He applied it for the Church. We see that it will pass through the Church to Israel, and through them to the world--all the families of the earth. But, mark you, while that was the way He was offering Himself in the Most Holy, the value of His offering was another thing. The thing to do while on earth was to lay down His life. Well, He could have laid it down in sawing wood or in a hundred ways. What did He choose to do? He chose to use it as wisely and profitably as He could. He laid it down for the poor and needy, the sick, the lame and the blind, giving them vitality from Himself, as He found opportunity. But the way He used His strength has nothing to do with the value of the blood offered. KEEP THE TWO THOUGHTS IN MIND. [Q677] The one is the sacrifice of earthly rights, which are to be applied for us; and the other the way in which He would die, use up His strength, etc. He might have spent all His time in antagonizing the Pharisees and they might have crucified Him just the same. But if so, He would not have done it in the wisest way. He laid down His life for the Church, the 500 He met after His resurrection were the ones He specially served.
So then with you and with me, so far as you and I are concerned, it is not enough for us to say, I consecrate my life to the temperance work, or to serving my family, or to serving one of the nominal churches--it is not for you to decide your course, how you will spend this day, tomorrow, etc. Give all to the Lord, and then He tells us here, through the Apostle, that it would be best to lay down our life for Jesus' sake, and He gives us an example of how He spent His life. You understand that His life was consecrated to the Lord and that He should serve the Church, and so with us. But the value of the sacrifice is one part, and the way it will be applied is another matter altogether.
SIN-OFFERING: You remember the day of atonement which came to the Jewish nation once a year, about the 10th day of the seventh month, they were told to afflict their souls, etc. So all the Jews to this day, although they have no priest now, and cannot properly observe this atonement day, yet on the 10th day of the seventh month they afflict their souls in the sense that they fast and deny themselves. What they did originally was this: When this atonement day came, the High Priest first went out, took a young bullock which was for himself. He did not take it from the congregation; it was the High Priest's bullock, which represented himself, and after offering it, he took the blood into the Holy and Most Holy and sprinkled it upon the Mercy Seat to make an atonement, to make satisfaction for sin. You remember the Mercy Seat was the propitiatory, which signifies the place of propitiation, or place of satisfaction. Now whose sins was atonement made for by the blood of the bullock? For the sins of himself, his body and his household, the house of Levi--they were his house. He was the head of that tribe. What do they represent? The Body of Christ, which is the Church. When He, Jesus, made an atonement for Himself, He made atonement for us, His Body, who are His house, the house of Levi, the household of faith--all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and have turned from sin and are seeking to serve the Lord. Was that sufficient, or did they need any more? That was sufficient for them. Did it go out beyond them? No. Then what next? He went out and laid hold upon one of the goats at the door of the Tabernacle, and slew it, and offered it, as He slew the bullock, for a sin offering. (By the way, He did not provide the goat, but it was taken from the congregation of the people, representing the Church taken out of the world.) He slew the goat, and the goat represents those who are the members of His Body, and when He had slain it, the body was burned without the camp, and the blood was sprinkled just as he sprinkled the blood of the bullock, but not for the same people, but to make atonement for all the other tribes outside the tribe of Levi. Paul and you and I can have part in this secondary part, as the antitypical goat. [Q678] We offer ourselves at the door of the Tabernacle, then He makes us representatives of Himself, then our sufferings are the sufferings of Christ after that. Because God has accepted you through Christ, your sufferings are counted as a part of His sufferings; you are suffering with Him and for the same thing as He suffered, and thereafter you are no longer a goat. Did the goat go into the Most Holy? No, neither did the bullock; both perished outside the camp, representing the earthly or fleshly conditions. Neither of these went into the Most Holy. What goes into the Most Holy? Why our Lord Jesus Himself individually as a New Creature, begotten of the Holy Spirit, goes into the Holy, and you and I also when we are begotten of the Holy Spirit.
So, then, you see, Paul was a member of the Body of His sacrifice, but as a Royal Priest, he was a member of the Body of Christ. In one sense of the word you are earthly and are dying, and in another sense you are a New Creature, a Member of the Body of Christ, seated in the Holy, eating of the shew-bread, having the light of the golden candlestick, and offering incense upon the golden altar.
The Apostle speaks of this goat or Church class when he says: "Let us go to him without the camp, bearing his reproach." Remember, as the Apostle said, "For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp." No other sacrifices were burned without the camp, only the sin-offering. "Let us go to him," or be a part of the sin-offering. THAT IS OUR PRIVILEGE, IF WE CAN SEE IT.
SUFFERING--Re New or Old Creature.
QUESTION (1909)--l--In connection with our sacrifice, who is it that suffers, the new creature or the old?
ANSWER.--This is another of those questions which depend upon which standpoint you take when asking or answering the question. So far as the body of the new creature is concerned, it never suffers anything, for the reason that you have no body. So far as the mind of the old creature is concerned, it does not suffer, because if you are a new creature, you have no old mind. What have you? You have a new mind in an earthen vessel, and both in the same service. The new mind has its own tribulations, and the old flesh has its tribulations, don't it?
QUESTION (1909)--2--Did Jehovah suffer because of the sacrifice made for the sins of the world? Is it possible for God to suffer?
ANSWER.--Our different casts of mind, (for no two are alike), cause us to make use of different language and to give it different weight. Just what do we mean by suffering? The Scriptures certainly do speak of God as though He did suffer and as though He was sorry, yet you and I do find a difficulty in imaging how God could suffer in the ordinary way, to have pain. To have pain means to have something wrong with the organism. For instance, if you have your proper functions, and some one should pinch you, you have pain because there would be a certain amount of destruction because of the pinching. If you have sorrow of heart you have pain. For instance, you say: Oh, I am so sorry, I was so pained in the matter. From that standpoint we cannot understand [Q679] how God can suffer since God is immortal, unchangeable, and therefore cannot suffer in any degree. If He could have some derangement of His system then He could suffer. Why, then, does the Bible speak of His having sorrow? We answer, for two reasons. (1) He wishes us to know what is to His pleasing and what is not to His pleasing. (2) He is coming down to our comprehension so that we may understand, so that we may form some reasonable conception of what would be displeasing to Him.
The question seems to imply something respecting our Lord Jesus. Did the Father suffer a great deal when He gave His Son, as some say that the Father suffered more than the Son did? I do not think so, dear friends. Knowing the end from the beginning, I think the Father was pleased to do what He did, and He knew how every feature would result; I think the Father was pleased and happy over the sacrifice of His Son, and was willing, and had the full consent of His own will and judgment, otherwise He never would have done anything of the kind--He was not caught in a trap and had to do something, but known unto Him was the end from the beginning. Therefore, in our sense of suffering, of pain, disintegration of nerve and vital powers, our Heavenly Father has no such suffering, neither could He but in the sense of having sympathy for His Son and for us, for He wishes us to know that He is not cold like a stone, having no sympathy, but that He is sympathetic and in His heart of sympathy and love He sympathized with our Lord Jesus. We do not want to lose sight of the sympathy of the Father. "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him."
SUFFERING--How the New Creature Suffers.
QUESTION (1915)--1--(Rom. 8:18:) "I reckon that sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. "How do we suffer with Christ? And who suffers, the old creature or the new?
ANSWER.--From the Bible viewpoint the old creature is dead from the time we come into God's family. That is the only condition upon which we are received into God's family. If any offer to God one-half, nine-tenths, or ninety-nine-one-hundredths, he would not be accepted. The only condition upon which we are accepted of the Lord is a full surrender of our wills. And this surrender of the will is reckoned as the death of the will--the old will. Since the will carries your pocketbook, etc. everything--then your own will is dead. And when you accept the Lord's will instead, the Bible very properly says, "Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3).
Now it is this New Creature, this new being, that is to suffer with Jesus, to share in the sufferings of Christ. These New Creatures are members of the Body of Christ, which is the Church. And as members of the Body of Christ all are to suffer with the Head. When your finger suffers, it is a part of your body that suffers. So when you suffer, it is a part of the Body of Christ that suffers. Any sufferings that we have because of our membership in His Body are a part of the Sufferings of Christ. Whatever it has cost you, therefore, to give up your own will, to keep your will submissive [Q680] to God, to be faithful to the principles for which Christ stands, all that is part of the sufferings of Christ.
It is the New Creature that does this suffering, because the New Creature has the personality. There is no longer a personality to the old creature. Yet the New Creature does not suffer as a New Creature, but through the flesh.
You ask, "Has the New Creature flesh?" Yes, the Apostle answers. While we were reckoned dead according to the flesh, yet our reckonedly dead flesh has been quickened through the power of God to serve Him; for we are risen with Christ to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:11). But our flesh is now counted as the body of the New Creature, and the Lord deals with us only as New Creatures.
Why do we have this fleshly body? Because if we didn't have it we would not have any at all. The time for getting the new body is the time of our resurrection. We shall then have our "change" and receive spiritual bodies; but the only body we can have now is the present fleshly body. So then, this body is reckoned dead, and then reckoned as risen with Christ; and this flesh of ours that is suffering now belongs to the New Creature. The New Creature suffers through its earthly tabernacle, the flesh. So it was with Jesus. He gave up His earthly life; He was reckoned dead the moment He made the consecration at Jordan. Then for three and one-half years His flesh was suffering the actual death which was reckoned to Him at the beginning. The sufferings of Jesus, therefore, were sufferings in the flesh, for He had not yet received His new body.
The new body will not suffer, but so long as we are in the flesh we will have this suffering, because it is through the sufferings of the flesh that the new mind is tried and tested as to our loyalty to God; and at the cost of the flesh we are proving ourselves worthy of the High Calling with which we have been called. If any draw back from the sufferings, then he will also be drawing back from the crown of glory, and he shall not reign with Christ (Heb. 10:38).
SUFFERING--Christian's Sufferings Divinely Supervised.
QUESTION (1915)--1--Do the sufferings that we experienced before coming into Present Truth benefit us as Christians?
ANSWER.--I do not know what the questioner has in mind. The question seems to imply that he refers to a class already Christians. If that is his thought, and he refers to the sufferings we have as Christians before we receive the light of Present Truth, I would say, "Yes." All the sufferings of a Christian are under Divine supervision, and many of us, I believe, before coming into Present Truth, had certain experiences of trials and difficulties that worked out for us a great blessing, and prepared us to receive the Truth. I have known many who have given me their experiences along this line. They were so engrossed in business that they would not have taken the time to study the Truth.
I knew a gentleman in the grocery business, for instance. He was a Christian, and had purchased the six volumes of the Studies in the Scriptures. But he could not take time to study them. He did not realize that the greatest business in the world is the Lord's business. The grocery business was his greatest business for the time being. The Lord very graciously let him break his leg. He had to remain quiet [Q681] until the bones were knit. He told me afterwards that his enforced vacation was the best time in his life; for he read the six volumes. Before that he never had time; after that he always had time.
It is the same with a certain sister. This sister said to me one day, "I wondered at one time very much why the Lord let my hands get all crippled up with rheumatism. I had always been very active up to that time, knitting or sewing or doing something else. Then my hands became all knotted up with rheumatism, as you see them. I could not sew or knit or do anything else; my hands were useless. Finally, I found that by trying, I could manage to turn over the leaves of a book; and I began to read. After reading awhile, the thought came to me, God let your hands twist up like that so you could read."
These are some of the ways in which various ones of the Lord's people were blessed and helped to come into Present Truth. God has a way of dealing with His children. If we are His, then the next thing is to be fully submissive to His will and to be glad to follow His providences.
SUFFERINGS--Christ's Re Sins of Mankind.
QUESTION (1916) 1--Did Christ's sufferings atone for the sins of mankind?
ANSWER.--No, the death of Jesus was for the original sin. The original sin was the thing that came upon us through Father Adam, and all of their latter sins, many of them come from imperfections of the flesh which are inherited because of the original sin, and to whatever extent your weakness and mine are results of the original sin to that extent all such sins are included because they are a part of the original sin and not part of the sin on your own account. The sin of the world,--of that John the Baptist says "Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world." This sin of the world is the sin which came through Adam and which has been distributed among his children. All those sins which are from Adam's weakness, inherited through Adam, can be forgiven, but those willful on our part will have to receive stripes.
SUICIDES--Are Morally Responsible?
QUESTION (1913-Z)--2--Please give the correct idea as to the end of one who commits suicide. Will he be punished for it? Or is death his punishment?
ANSWER.--The theory that suicides are hopelessly lost was formulated during the Dark Ages. The thought was that self-murder, being a sin committed as a last act, indicated a mind and heart out of accord with God's arrangement to the last moment of life. The thought that death ends all hope clinched the theory that eternal torment is the wages of suicide. This, we believe, is thoroughly wrong in every way. The proper view according to the Bible is this;
(1) Adam was disobedient, was sentenced to death. Thus his race was born under unfavorable conditions, mental, moral, and physical; in degeneracy, some more, some less; some in very poor physical health, some of very low moral status, some with very weak mental powers. A suicide often has all three of these inducing causes as provocations to such an act. Surely he was either mentally weak or uninformed, [Q682] ignorant; else he would not take his own life. His trouble, then, was weakness of mind and judgment caused by Adam's transgression. He was a sharer of Adam's penalty--the death penalty; and when he died--no matter how--he came fully under the effect of that penalty--nothing more. Eternal torment is not in any way intimated in the death penalty. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die."
(2) God had mercy upon Adam, not in the way of abrogating the decision of the Divine Court and clearing the guilty one, but in another way--by providing redemption through the death of Christ. Jesus' death, by Divine appointment, is to cover the sin of Adam--not only his original transgression and its penalty, but all the transgressions of his children, the world, which have resulted from his mental, moral and physical impairment.
(3) This provision of God includes not only mental sickness, but moral sickness and physical sickness. All mankind are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ.
(4) The redemption of the world implies its eventual release from the condemnation of death. The time Divinely appointed for the release of all is the thousand years of Christ's Reign--the Millennium. All mankind will then be liberated from the original condemnation, and will be granted a full opportunity for the recovery of all that was lost. The mentally sick, the morally sick, and the physically decrepit--all will have opportunity for a full return to human perfection.
(5) The only exceptions to this rule of restoration to Adam's original perfection will be those who during this Gospel Age--from the death of Christ to His Second Coming--are called out of the world, invited to become New Creatures in Christ, and made associates with Jesus, sharers in His exaltation to the Divine nature and in His office. These are justified (reckoned perfect) by faith in Christ's redemptive sacrifice, and then given the opportunity to present themselves as living sacrifices.--Rom. 12:1.
(6) As Christians, during this Gospel Age, might sin wilfully and thus forfeit all relationship to God and die the Second Death, so in the coming Age, during the Millennium, the world in general, after having been brought to an accurate knowledge of the Truth, may by willful sin forfeit all relationship to God, and die the Second Death.
(7) In thus declaring that not only the sins of the Church class, but the sins of the whole world, are covered by God's arrangement through the sacrifice of Christ, we are not to be understood as meaning that the sinner is exempted from all punishment. On the contrary, each one has a responsibility for his own actions, even if he has but imperfect knowledge. His responsibility, as Jesus pointed out, is in proportion to his knowledge.
The Master declared that he that knows his Master's will, and does it not, shall be punished with many stripes-- severe punishment; and he who knows less of his Master's will, and does it not, shall be punished with fewer stripes--less punishment. Sometimes those stripes, or punishments, come in the present life. With the Church class it is uniformly so. But often the punishments are not meted out in the present life; however, they will be administered justly in the life to come. So the Apostle declares, "Some men's [Q683] sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some they follow after."--1 Tim. 5:24.
(8) Along the above lines, we would not be inclined to hope that any suicide could be a member of the glorified Church of Christ, but, at most, a part of the world--to have trial with the remainder of the world for life or death everlasting under the favorable conditions of Messiah's Kingdom. However, even upon this point we may not dogmatize, remembering that some, apparently saintly, have been permitted of the Lord to lose their reason to a greater extent than some of the world who have committed suicide.
SUNDAY SCHOOLS--Teaching in Nominal Church.
QUESTION (1909)--1--Volume 5, page 238, paragraph 1 (E238:1). Are we the consecrated to teach a Sunday School class in the nominal church, and if so, under what conditions?
ANSWER.--I cannot remember what is written on the page mentioned, but I think it is all right there, and I think I will say the same now. I think we would be perfectly justified in presenting the truth to anybody anywhere, if the Lord gives us the opportunity, if we do it understandingly and above board. As, for instance, when the Apostle Paul was permitted to go into the synagogues and preach Christ; he preached fully and did not put his light under a bushel, but wherever he let his light shine, they put him out, and so it is now. If that is the best form of service you know how to render, and if the dear friends of that congregation are pleased to have you serve as a teacher, then by all means use the opportunity, but do not put your light under a measure, but let your light shine, that they may see your good work. If, bye and bye, they say, "We are tired of having you teach this class," you should say, "All right, I have no desire to remain if I cannot teach what the Lord has to say." But if the class should be of children of tender years and if I thought they could not receive any portion of the glad tidings, I would imagine that you could find better use for your time. God is not calling the children specially. We are glad, indeed, however, that some of tender years do hear the message. Aside from special things, I would not think it wise to spend the time teaching a Sunday School class when others could teach them and tell them that there is going to be a picnic, etc., etc. You have something better to spend your time on than to amuse a lot of children. You might think of Mrs. Smith, or Mrs. Brown, who seem to be grand characters, and you might make a call upon them and leave them a tract, etc. I believe you would be using your time to better advantage.
SUNDAY SCHOOLS--Re Debt of Gratitude.
QUESTION (1910)--2--I am a Sunday School superintendent of a class of children; they love me and I greatly love them, and although I am greatly interested in the truth, I do not feel called upon to give the work up. I owe a debt of gratitude to the Methodist church in shepherding me while young, and I wish to feed the lambs, as Christ did. Do the Scriptures teach otherwise?
ANSWER.--Well, I would say that if I were in your place I would not so much feel a debt of gratitude to the Methodist church as I would feel a debt of gratitude to the Lord, from whom every good and perfect gift comes. Therefore if you [Q684] are a member of the Wesleyan Methodist church, or any other which gives you a measure of light and truth, be thankful for it, but let the chief gratitude go out to God. If you are thoroughly the Lord's you will belong to him, as we sing, "I Belong to Christ, My Lord." So I would give up any thought of special indebtedness, or of belonging to anybody. I do not think we want to belong to anybody except the Lord. We belong to him and we cannot have two masters, and we had better make up our mind which we are going to serve and settle that part first. Who is the master? I know a great many people who belong to the Presbyterian church, others to the Episcopal church, others that belong to the Methodist church, and they would of course not deny that they belong to the Lord, yet here is an acknowledgment of belonging to two masters. There is something wrong. The Methodist friends may have given you a great deal of light and truth, for many of them have not much left.
Now, as to the obligations of the Sunday School class. If your consecration was of the proper kind, it would mean the giving up of yourself to the Lord in the words of Jesus when he made his consecration, "Lo, I come, in the volume of the book it is written, to do thy will. I delight to do THY will." Not the Methodist, Presbyterian, or the will of any other church or system, but what you understand to be God's will. Now in the matter of this class, is it God's will that you should continue to teach this class of 125? Well, of course, I do not know who the person is; if it is a lady, I would think that there would be difference then. As a teacher of children I would think she had an opportunity of teaching the children some truth. But if she is bound so that she cannot teach the children the Truth, then I would think that she was doing them an injury instead of setting them at liberty. But if the church is not one that is very careful in such matters and they say, We wish to give the children some instruction and training; we know that you do not believe according to the Wesleyan Methodist church doctrines, but try to follow the Bible and you are living according to the light of your conscience, we are glad to have you stay and teach those children and tell them what you think is the Truth. Then I would think I would keep that class, unless it interfered with some of my home duties. If I were neglecting my own children or husband I would think there was something wrong. I would not neglect those in my own home to teach other people's children.
I think of one very fine Christian lady and she had quite a fine Bible class, but her own son was neglected and grew up to be an infidel. I thought many times afterward that she would have done a great deal better if she had looked after the care the Lord put in her own charge--her own children.
Then, on the other hand, if this were a man, I would think he could find a better opportunity. Since there are 125 in the class, there are probably some in the infant class. If it were a brother he might find some older children to teach the younger ones, to tell them stories and keep them interested and out of mischief.